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OF THE WORLD'S BEST BOOKS 



BAUDELAIRE: HIS PROSE AND POETRY 









din- 




^Ll 



Charles Pierre Baude- 
laire was born in Paris, 
France, on April 9, 1821, 
and died there on Au- 
gust 31, 1867. Floicers 
of Evil was published in 
1857 by Baudelaire's 
friend Auguste Poulet 
Malassis, who had inher- 
ited a printing business 
at Alengon. Some of 
them had already ap- 
peared in the Revue deS 
Deux Mondes. The poet, 
the publisher, and the 
printer were found 
guilty of having offended 
against public morals. 




BAUDELAIRE: 

HIS PROSE AND POETRY 



Edited by T. R. SMITH 




BONIANDLIVEIilCHTIi 

PUBLISHERS ^^SES^I MEW YORK 



Copyright, 1919, 
By BONI & LIVERIGHT, Inc. 



Printed in the U.S,A» 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Ave Atque Vale. A Poem by A. C. Swinburne . . . i 

Preface 9 

Charles Baudelaire. A sttidy by F. P. Sturm ... 11 
Poems in Prose. Translated by Arthur Symons 

The Favours of the Moon 39 

Which is True? 40 

"L'Invitation au Voyage" 41 

The Eyes of the Poor^ 43 

Windows . . . . ;^ 45 

Crowds 46 

The Cake 47 

Evening Twilight 49 

"Anywhere Out of the World" ....... 51 

A Heroic Death -53 

Be Drunken 57 

Epilogue 58 

Poems in Prose. Translated by Joseph T. Shipley 

Dedication (To Arsdne Houssaye) 61 

A Jester 63 

The Dog and the Vial 63 

The Wild Woman and the Coquette 64 

The Old Mountebank 66 

The Clock . 68 

A Hemisphere in a Tress . 69 

The Plaything of the Poor 70 

The Gifts of the Fairies 72 

Solitude 74 

Projects 75 

The Lovely Dorothea 77 

The Counterfeit 79 

The Generous Player 80 

vii 



vui CONTENTS 

PAGE 

The Rope (To Edward Manet) 84 

Callings 88 

A Thoroughbred 92 

The Mirror . ; 93 

The Harbor 93 

Mistresses' Portraits 94 

Soup and the Clouds 98 

The Loss of a Halo 99 

Mademoiselle Bistoury 100 

Let us Flay the Poor 103 

Good Dogs (To Mr. Joseph Stevens) 106 

Little Poems in Prose. Translated by F. P. Sturm 

Every Man His Chimaera 113 

Venus and the Fool . > 114 

Already! 115 

The Double Chamber . . 116 

At One o'clock in the Morning 118 

The Confiteor of the Artist 120 

The Thyrsus (To Franz Liszt) 121 

The Marksman lai 

The Shooting-range and the Cemetery 123 

The Desire to Paint 124 

The Glass-vendor /. 125 

The Widows 128 

The Temptations; or, Eros, Plutos, and Glory . . .131 

The Flowers of Evil. Translated by F. P. Sturm 

The Dance of Death 137 

The Beacons 139 

The Sadness of the Moon 141 

The Balcony 141 

The Sick Muse . 142 

The Venal Muse 143 

The Evil Monk 143 

The Temptation 144 

The Irreparable 145 

A Former Life 147 

Don Juan in Hades 147 



CONTENTS ix 

PAGE 

The Living Flame 148 

Correspondences 149 

The Flask 149 

Reversibility 150 

The Eyes of Beauty 151 

Sonnet of Autumn 152 

The Remorse of the Dead 152 

The Ghost 153 

To a Madonna 154 

The Sky 155 

Spleen 156 

The Owls 156 

Bien Loin d'Ici 157 

Contemplation 158 

To a Brown Beggar-maid 158 

The Swan 160 

The Seven Old Men 162 

The Little Old Women 164 

A Madrigal of Sorrow 167 

Mist and Rain 168 

Sunset 169 

The Corpse 169 

An Allegory 171 

The Accursed 172 

La Beatrice 173 

The Soul of Wine 174 

The Wine of Lovers 175 

The Death of Lovers 175 

The Death of the Poor 176 

Gypsies Travelling 176 

Franciscae Meae Laudes 177 

A Landscape 178 

The Voyage 179 

The Flowers of Evil. Translated by W. J. Robertson 

Benediction 189 

111 Luck 192 

Beauty 192 

Ideal Love 193 



X CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Hymn to Beauty , 193 

Exotic Fragrance 194 

Sonnet XVIII 195 

Music 196 

The Spiritual Dawn 196 

The Flawed Bell 197 

Three Poems from Baudelaire. Translated by Richard 
Heme Shepherd 

A Carcass 201 

Weeping and Wandering 203 

Lesbos 204 

Intimate Papers from the Unpublished Works of 
Baudelaire. Translated by Joseph T. Shipley 

Translator's Note 209 

Rockets 211 

My Heart Laid Bare 225 



FLOWERS OF EVIL 



AVE ATQUE VALE 

In Memory of Charles Batidelaire 
By Algernon Charles Swinburne 

Nous devrions pourtant lui porter quelques fleurs; 
Les morts, les pauvres morts, ont de grandes douleurs, 
Et quand Octobre souffle, emondeur des vieux arbres. 
Son vent melancolique a I'entour de leurs marbres, 
Certe, ils doivent trouver les vivants bien ingrats. 

Les Fleurs du MaL 



Shall I strew on thee rose or rue or laurel, 
Brother, on this that was the veil of thee? 
Or quiet sea-flower moulded by the sea. 

Or simplest growth of meadow-sweet or sorrel, 
Such as the summer-sleepy Dryads weave, 
Waked up by snow-soft sudden rains at eve? 

Or wilt thou rather, as on earth before, 
Half-faded fiery blossoms, pale with heat 
And full of bitter summer, but more sweet 

To thee than gleanings of a northern shore 
Trod by no tropic feet? 

II 

For always thee the fervid languid glories 
Allured of heavier suns in mightier skies; 
Thine ears knew all the wandering watery sighs 



2 AVE ATQUE VALE 

Where the sea sobs round Lesbian promontories, 
The barren kiss of piteous wave to wave 
That knows not where is that Leucadian grave 

Which hides too deep the supreme head of song. 
Ah, salt and sterile as her kisses were, 
The wild sea winds her and the green gulfs bear 

Hither and thither, and vex and work her wrong, 
Blind gods that cannot spare, 

m 

Thou sawest, in thine old singing season, brother. 

Secrets and sorrows unbeheld of us: 

Fierce loves, and lovely leaf-buds poisonous, 
Bare to thy subtler eye, but for none other 

Blowing by night in some unbreathed-in clime; 

The hidden harvest of luxurious time. 
Sin without shape, and pleasure without speech; 

And where strange dreams in a tumultuous sleep 

Make the shut eyes of stricken spirits weep; 
And with each face thou sawest the shadow on each. 

Seeing as men sow men reap. 

IV 

O sleepless heart and sombre soul misleeping, 
That were athirst for sleep and no more life 
And no more love, for peace and no more strife I 

Now the dim gods of death have in their keeping 
Spirit and body and all the springs of song, 
Is it well now where love can do not wrong, 

Where stingless pleasure has no foam or fang 
Behind the unopening closure of her lips? 
It is not well where soul from body slips 

And flesh from bone divides without a pang 
As dew from flower-bell drips. 



AVE ATQUE VALE 



It is enough; the end and the beginning 
Are one thing to thee, who are past the end. 
O hand unclasped of unbeholden friend, 

For thee no fruits to pluck, no palms for winning, 
No triumph and no labor and no lust, 
Only dead yew-leaves and a little dust. 

O quiet eyes wherein the light saith nought, 
Whereto the day is dumb, nor any night 
With obscure finger silences your sight, 

Nor in your speech the sudden soul speaks thought, 
Sleep, and have sleep for light. 



VI 

Now all strange hours and all strange loves are over, 
Dreams and desires and sombre songs and sweet, 
Hast thou found place at the great knees and feet 

Of some pale Titan-woman like a lover. 
Such as thy vision here solicited. 
Under the shadow of her fair vast head. 

The deep division of prodigious breasts, 
The solemn slope of mighty limbs asleep, 
The weight of awful tresses that still keep 

The savor and shade of old-world pine-forests 
Where the wet hill- winds weep? 



vn 

Hast thou found any likeness for thy vision? 

O gardener of strange flowers, what bud, what bloom. 
Hast thou found sown, what gathered in the gloom? 

What of despair, of rapture, of derision, 



4 AVE ATQUE VALE 

What of life is there, what of ill or good? 

Are the fruits gray like dust or bright like blood? 
Does the dim ground grow any seed of ours, 

The faint fields quicken any terrene root, 

In low lands where the sun and moon are mute 
And all the stars keep silence? Are there flowers 

At all, or any fruit? 



vin 

Alas, but though my flying song flies after, 
O sweet strange elder singer, thy more fleet 
Singing, and footprints of thy fleeter feet. 

Some dim derision of mysterious laughter 

From the blind tongueless warders of the dead. 
Some gainless glimpse of Proserpine's veiled head, 

Some little sound of unregarded tears 
Wept by effaced unprofitable eyes, 
And from pale mouths some cadence of dead sighs — 

These only, these the hearkening spirit hears, 
Sees only such things rise. 



IX 

Thou art far too far for wings of words to follow, 

Far too far off for thought or any prayer. 

What ails us with thee, who art wind and air? 
What ails us gazing where all seen is hollow? 

Yet with some fancy, yet with some desire, 

Dreams pursue death as winds a flying fire. 
Our dreams pursue our dead and do not find. 

Still, and more swift than they, the thin flame flies, 

The low light fails us in elusive skies, 
Still the foiled earnest ear is deaf, and blind 

Are still the eluded eyes. 



AVE ATQUE VALE 



Not thee, O never thee, in all time's changes, 
Not thee, but this the sound of thy sad soul, 
The shadow of thy swift spirit, this shut scroll 

I lay my hand on, and not death estranges 
My spirit from communion of thy song — 
These memories and these melodies that throng 

Veiled porches of a Muse funereal — 
These I salute, these touch, these clasp and fold 
As though a hand were in my hand to hold, 

Or through mine ears a mourning musical 
Of many mourners rolled. 

XI 

I among these, I also, in such station 
As when the pyre was charred, and piled the sods, 
And offering to the dead made, and their gods, 

The old mourners had, standing to make libation, 
I stand, and to the gods and to the dead 
Do reverence without prayer or praise, and shed 

Offering to these unknown, the gods of gloom, 
And what of honey and spice my seedlands bear, 
And what I may of fruits in this chilled air, 

And lay, Orestes-like, across the tomb 
A curl of severed hair. 



xn 

But by no hand nor any treason stricken, 
Not like the low-lying head of Him, the King, 
The flame that made of Troy a ruinous thing, 

Thou liest and on this dust no tears could quicken 



6 AVE ATQUE VALE 

There fall no tears like theirs that all men hear 

Fall tear by sweet imperishable tear 
Down the opening leaves of holy poet's pages. 

Thee not Orestes, not Electra mourns; 

But bending us-ward with memorial urns 
The most high Muses that fulfil all ages 

Weep, and our God's heart yearns. 

xni 

For, sparing of his sacred strength, not often 
Among us darkling here the lord of light 
Makes manifest his music and his might 

In hearts that open and in lips that soften 

With the soft flame and heat of songs that shine. 
Thy lips indeed he touched with bitter wine, 

And nourished them indeed with bitter bread; 
Yet surely from his hand thy soul's food came. 
The fire that scarred thy spirit at his flame 

Was lighted, and thine hungering heart he fed 
Who feeds our hearts with fame. 

XIV 

Therefore he too now at thy soul's sunsetting, 
God of all suns and songs, he too bends down 
To mix his laurel with thy c5TDress crown 

And save thy dust from blame and from forgetting. 
Therefore he too, seeing all thou wert and art, 
Compassionate, with sad and sacred heart, 

Mourns thee of many his children the last dead. 
And hallows with strange tears and alien sighs 
Thine unmelodious mouth and sunless eyes. 

And over thine irrevocable head 
Sheds light from the under skies. 



AVE ATQUE VALE 



XV 

Ard one weeps with him in the ways Lethean, 
And stains with tears her changing bosom chill; 
Tiat obscure Venus of the hollow hill, 

That thing transformed which was the Cytherean, 
With lips that lost their Grecian laugh divine 
Long since, and face no more called Erycine 

A ghost, a bitter and luxurious god. 

Thee also with fair flesh and singing* spell 
Did she, a sad and second prey, compel 

Into the footless places once more trod, 
And shadows hot from hell. 



XVI 

And now no sacred staff shall break in blossom, 
No choral salutation lure to light 
A spirit with perfume and sweet night 

And love's tired eyes and hands and barren bosom. 
There is no help for these things; none to mend. 
And none to mar; not all our songs, O friend, 

Will make death clear or make life durable. 
Howbeit with rose and ivy and wild vine 
And with wild notes about this dust of thine 

At least I fill the place where white dreams dwell 
And wreathe an unseen shrine. 

xvn 

Sleep; and if life was bitter to thee, pardon, 
If sweet, give thanks ; thou hast no more to live 
And to give thanks is good, and to forgive. 

Out of the mystic and the mournful garden 



8 AVE ATQUE VALE 

Where all day through thine hands in barren brajl 
Wove the sick flowers of secrecy and shade, / 

Green buds of sorrow and sin, and remnants gray, 
Sweet-smelling, pale with poison, sanguine-hearte4 
Passions that sprang from sleep and thoughts that 
started. 

Shall death not bring us all as thee one day 
Among the days departed? 

xvin 

For thee, O now a silent soul, my brother, 
Take at my hands this garland, and farewell. 
Thin is the leaf, and chill the wintry smell, 

And chill the solemn earth, a fatal mother, 
With sadder than the Niobean womb. 
And in the hollow of her breasts a tomb. 

Content thee, howsoe'er, whose days are done: 
There lies not any troublous thing before. 
Nor sight nor sound to war against thee more, 

For whom all winds are quiet as the sim, 
All waters as the shore. 



PREFACE 

In presenting to the American public this collection in 
English of perhaps the most influential French poet of 
the last seventy years, I consider it essential to explain 
the conditions under which the work has been done. 

Baudelaire has written poems that will, in all likeli- 
hood, live while poetry is used as a medium of expres- 
sion, and the great influence that he has exercised on 
English and continental literature is mainly due to the 
particular quality of his style, his way of feeling or his 
method of thought. He is a master of analytical power, 
and in his highest ecstasy of emotional expression, this 
power can readily be recognized. In his own quotation 
he gave forth his philosophy on this point: 

"The more art would aim at being philosophically 
clear, the more will it degrade itself and return to the 
childish hieroglyphic: on the other hand, the more art 
detaches itself from teaching, the more will it attain to 
pure disinterested beauty. . . . Poetry, under pain of 
death or decay, cannot assimilate Herself to science or 
ethics. She has not Truth for object, she has only Herself." 

What appears at first glance in the preceding 
phrases to be a contradiction is really a confirmation of 
Baudelaire's conception of the highest understanding of 
aesthetic principle. Baudelaire's ideal beauty is tempered 
with mystery and sadness, the real too, but never the 
commonplace. 

No poet has brought so many new ideas in sensation 
into a literary style. Intellectually he is all sensation, 
though he seldom degenerates into abstract sentimental- 
ity. This sum totality of the power of absorbing ex- 
ternal sensation is Baudelaire. From the effect of his 



lo PREFACE 

objectivity his art expresses itself as if solely subjective. 
This condition of mind and art makes him most difficult 
to translate into another language, in particular, English. 

This collection of his verse and prose is gathered from 
those experiments in translation which I think wiU most 
effectively convey to the English reader those qualities 
that made Baudelaire what he is. There are numerous 
translations from Baudelaire in English but most of them 
may be dismissed as being seldom successful. Mr. Ar- 
thur Symon's translation of some of the prose poems is a 
most beautiful adventure in psychological sensations, ef- 
fective though not always accurate in interpretation. Mr. 
F. P. Sturm's effort with the Flowers of Evil and the Prose 
Poems is always accurate, sometimes inspired, and often 
a tour de force of translation. Mr. W. J. Robertson's 
translations from the Flowers of Evil is the most success- 
ful of all. He maintains with amazing facility all the 
subtlety, beauty and one might also say the perfume of 
Baudelaire's verse. Mr. Shipley does a most meritorious 
work in his translations from the prose poems, and the 
reader will be everlastingly grateful to him for his fine 
painstaking translation of the Intimate Papers from 
Baudelaire's unpublished novels. 

There are few interesting or valuable essays on the 
mind and art of Baudelaire in English, but the reader will 
find the following critical appreciations to be of ines- 
timable use in the study of the poet: 
, "The Influence of Baudelaire": G. Turquet-Milnes 
(Constable: 1913); "The Baudelaire Legend": James 
Huneker (Egoists: Scribner's: 1909^) ; and Theophile 
Gautier's essay on Baudelaire, of which an excellent Eng- 
lish translation has been made by Prof. Sumichrast. 

I think that this anthology will give the reader an in- 
telligent understanding of the mind and art of a very 

great French poet. nr. t^ r, 

^ ^ T. R. Smith. 

June, 19 19. 



CHARLES BAUDELAIRE: 
A Study by F. P. Stukm 



Charles Baudelaire was one of those who take the 
downward path which leads to salvation. There are men 
born to be the martyrs of the world and of their own 
time; men whose imagination carries them beyond all 
that we know or have learned to think of as law and 
order; who are so intoxicated with a vision of a beauty 
beyond the world that the world's beauty seems to them 
but a little paint above the face of the dead ; who love 
God with a so consuming fire that they must praise evil 
for God's glory, and blaspheme His name that all sects 
and creeds may be melted away; who see beneath all 
there is of mortal loveliness, the invisible worm, feeding 
upon hopes and desires no less than upon the fair and 
perishable flesh; who are good and evil at the same 
time; and because the good and evil in their souls finds 
a so perfect instrument in the refined and tortured body 
of modern times, desire keener pleasure and more intol- 
erable anguish than the world contains, and become ma- 
terialists because the tortured heart cries out in denial 
of the soul that tortures it. Charles Baudelaire was one 
of these men; his art is the expression of his decadence; 
a study of his art is the understanding of that complex 
movement, that "inquietude of the Veil in the temple," 
as Mallarme called it, that has changed the literature 
of the world; and, especially, made of poetry the subtle 

II 



12 CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 

and delicate instrument of emotional expression it has 
become in our own day. 

We used to hear a deal about Decadence in the arts, 
and now we hear as much about Symbolism, which is a 
flower sprung from the old corruption — but Baudelaire is 
decadence; his art is not a mere literary affectation, a 
mask of sorrow to be thrown aside when the curtain 
falls, but the voice of an imagination plunged into the 
contemplation of all the perverse and fallen loveliness 
of the world; that finds beauty most beautiful at the 
moment of its passing away, and regrets its perishing 
with a so poignant grief that it must needs follow it even 
into the narrow grave where those "dark comrades the 
worms, without ears, without eyes," whisper their se- 
crets of terror and tell of yet another pang — 

"Pour ce vieux corps sans ame et mort parmi les morts." 

All his life Baudelaire was a victim to an unutterable 
weariness, that terrible malady of the soul bom out of 
old times to prey upon civilisations that have reached 
their zenith — ^weariness, not of life, but of living, of con- 
tinuing to labour and suffer in a world that has exhausted 
all its emotions and has no new thing to offer. Being an 
artist, therefore, he took his revenge upon life by a glori- 
fication of all the sorrowful things that it is life's con- 
tinual desire to forget. His poems speak sweetly of de- 
cay and death, and whisper their graveyard secrets into 
the ears of beauty. His men are men whom the moon 
has touched with her own phantasy: who love the im- 
mense ungovernable sea, the unformed and multitudinous 
waters; the place where they are not; the woman they 
will never know; and all his women are enigmatic cour- 
tesans whose beauty is a transfiguration of sin; who hide 
the ugliness of the soul beneath the perfection of the 



CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 13 

body. He loves them and does not love; they are cruel 
and indolent and full of strange perversions; they are 
perfumed with exotic perfumes; they sleep to the sound 
of viols, or fan themselves languidly in the shadow, and 
only he sees that it is the shadow of death. 

An art like this, rooted in a so tortured perception of 
the beauty and ugliness of a world where the spirit is 
mingled indistinguishably with the flesh, almost inevi- 
tably concerns itself with material things, with all the 
subtle raptures the soul feels, not by abstract contem- 
plation, for that would mean content, but through the 
gateway of the senses; the lust of the flesh, the delight 
of the eye. Sound, colour, odour, form: to him these 
are not the sjonbols that lead the soul towards the in- 
finite: they are the soul; they are the infinite. He writes, 
always with a weary and laborious grace, about the ab- 
struser and more enigmatic things of the flesh, colours 
and odours particularly; but, unlike those later writers 
who have been called realists, he apprehends, to borrow 
a phrase from Pater, "all those finer conditions wherein 
material things rise to that subtlety of operation which 
constitutes them spiritual, where only the finer nerve and 
the keener touch can follow." 

In one of his sonnets he says: 

"Je hais la passion et I'esprit me fait mal!** 

and, indeed, he is a poet in whom the spirit, as modern 
thought understands the word, had little or no part. We 
feel, reading his terrible poems, that the body is indeed 
acutely conscious of the soul, distressfully and even 
angrily conscious, but its motions are not yet subdued 
by the soul's prophetic voice. It was to forget this voice, 
with its eternal Esto mentor, that Baudelaire wrote im- 
perishably of perishable things and their fading glory. 



14 CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 



n 

Charles Baudelaire was born at Paris, April 21st, 182 1, 
in an old turreted house in the Rue Hautefeuille. His 
father, a distinguished gentleman of the eighteenth-cen- 
tury school, seems to have passed his old-world man- 
ners on to his son, for we learn from Baudelaire's friend 
and biographer, Theophile Gautier, that the poet "always 
preserved the forms of an extreme urbanity." 

At school, during his childhood, he gained many dis- 
tinctions, and passed for a kind of infant prodigy; but 
later on, when he sat for his examination as bachelier ^s 
lettres, his extreme nervousness made him appear almost 
an idiot. Failing miserably, he made no second attempt. 
Then his father died, and his mother married General 
Aupick, afterwards ambassador to Constamtinople, an 
excellent man in every respect, but quite incapable of 
sympathising with or even of understanding the love for 
literature that now began to manifest itself in the mind 
of his stepson. All possible means were tried to turn 
him from literature to some more lucrative and more re- 
spectable profession. Family quarrels arose over this 
all-important question, and young Baudelaire, who seems 
to have given some real cause for offence to the step- 
father whose aspirations and profession he despised, was 
at length sent away upon a long voyage, in the hopes that 
the sight of strange lands and new faces would perhaps 
cause him to forget the ambitions his relatives could but 
consider as foolish and idealistic. He sailed the Indian 
Seas; visited the islands of Mauritius, Bourbon, Mada- 
gascar, and Ceylon; saw the yellow waters of the sacred 
Ganges; stored up the memory of tropical sounds and 
colours and odours for use later on; and returned to 



CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 15 

Paris shortly after his twenty-first birthday, more than 
ever determined to be a man of letters. 

His parents were in despair; no doubt quite rightly 
so from their point of view. Theophile Gautier, perhaps 
remembering the many disappointments and martyrdoms 
of his own sad life, defends the attitude of General 
Aupick in a passage where he poignantly describes the 
hopelessness of the profession of letters. The future 
author of The Flowers of Evil, however, was now his 
own master and in a positipn, so far as monetary mat- 
ters were concerned, to follow out his own whim. He 
took apartments in the Hotel Pimodan, a kind of literary 
lodging-house where all Bohemia met ; and where Gautier 
and Boissard were also at that period installed. Then 
began that life of uninterrupted labour and meditation 
that has given to France her most characteristic litera- 
ture, for these poems of Baudelaire's are not only origi- 
nal in themselves but have been the cause of originality 
in others; they are the root of modern French literature 
and much of the best English literature; they were the 
origin of that new method in poetry that gave Mallarme 
and Verlaine to France; Yeats and some others to Eng- 
land. It was in the Hotel Pimodan that Baudelaire and 
Gautier first met and formed one of those unfading 
friendships not so rare among men of letters as among 
men of the world; there also the "Hashish-Eaters" held 
the seances that have since become famous in the history 
of literature. Hashish and opium, indeed, contribute not 
a little to the odour of the strange Flowers of Evil; as 
also, perhaps, they contributed to Baudelaire's death 
from the terrible malady known as general paralysis, for 
he was a man who could not resist a so easy path into 
the world of macabre visions. I shall return to this ques- 
tion again; there is internal evidence in his writings that 
shows he made good literary use of these opiate-born 



i6 CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 

dreams which ia the end dragged him into their own 
abyss. 

It was in 1849, when Baudelaire was twenty-eight 
years of age, that he made the acquaintance of the al- 
ready famous Theophile Gautier, from whose admirable 
essay I shall presently translate a passage giving us an 
excellent pen-sketch of the famous poet and cynic — for 
Baudelaire was a cynic: he had not in the least degree 
the rapt expression and vague personality usually sup- 
posed to be characteristic of the poetic mood. "He re- 
calls," wrote M. Dulamon, who knew him well, "one of 
those beautiful Abbes of the eighteenth century, so cor- 
rect in their doctrine, so indulgent in their commerce 
with life — the Abbe de Bernis, for example. At the 
same time, he writes better verse, and would not have 
demanded at Rome the destruction of the Order of 
Jesuits." 

That was Baudelaire exactly, suave and polished, filled 
with sceptical faith, cynical with the terrible cynicism of 
the scholar who is acutely conscious of all the morbid 
and gloomy secrets hidden beneath the fair exteriors of 
the world. Gautier, in the passage I have already men- 
tioned, emphasises both his reserve and his cynicism: 
"Contrary to the somewhat loose manners of artists gen- 
erally, Baudelaire prided himself upon observing the 
most rigid convenances ; his courtesy, indeed, was exces- 
sive to the point of seeming affected. He measured his 
sentences, using only the most carefully chosen terms, 
and pronounced certain words in a particular manner, 
as though he wished to underline them and give them a 
mysterious importance. He had italics and capital letters 
in his voice. Exaggeration, much in honour at Pimo- 
dan's, he disdained as being theatrical and gross; though 
he himself affected paradox and excess. With a very 
simple, very natural, and perfectly detached air, as 



CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 17 

though retailing, a la Prudkomtne, a newspaper para- 
graph about the mildness or rigour of the weather, he 
would advance some satanically monstrous axiom, or up- 
hold with the coolness of ice some theory of a mathe- 
matical extravagance; for he always followed a rigorous 
plan in the development of his follies. Kis spirit was 
neither in words nor traits; he saw things from a particu- 
lar point of view, so that their outlines were changed, as 
objects when one gets a bird's-eye view of them; he per- 
ceived analogies inappreciable to others, and you were 
struck by their fantastic logic. His rare gestures were 
slow and sober; he never threw his arms about, for he 
held southern gesticulation in horror; British coolness 
seemed to him to be good taste. One might describe 
him as a dandy who had strayed into Bohemia; though 
still preserving his rank, and that cult of self which char- 
acterises a man imbued with the principles of Brummel." 
At this time Baudelaire was practically unknown out- 
side his own circle of friends, writers themselves; and it 
was not until eight years later, in 1857, when he pub- 
lished his Flowers of Evil, that he became famous. 
Infamous would perhaps be a better word to describe the 
kind of fame he at first obtained, for every Philistine in 
France joined in the cry against a poet who dared to 
remind his readers that the grave awaits even the rich; 
who dared to choose the materials of his art from among 
the objects of death and decay; who exposed the moul- 
dering secrecies of the grave, and painted, in the phos- 
phorescent colours of corruption, frescoes of death and 
horror; who desecrated love in the sonnet entitled "Cau- 
serie": 



''You are a sky of autumn, pale and rose! 
But all the sea of sadness in my blood 
Surges, and ebbing, leaves my lip morose 
Salt with the memory of the bitter flood. 



i8 CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 

In vain your hand glides my faint bosom o'er; 
That which you seek, beloved, is desecrate 
By woman's tooth and talon : ah ! no more 
Seek in me for a heart which those dogs ate! 

It is a ruin where the jackals rest, 
And rend and tear and glut themselves and slayl 
— A perfume swims about your naked breast. 
Beauty, hard scourge of spirits, have your way! 
With flame-like eyes that at bright feasts have flared 
Burn up these tatters that the beasts have spared!" 

We can recall nothing like it in the literary history of 
our own country; the sensation caused by the appearance 
of the first series of Mr. Swinburne's Poems and Ballads 
was mild in comparison; just as Mr, Swinburne's poems 
were but wan derivatives from Baudelaire — at least as 
far as ideas are concerned; I say nothing about their 
beauty of expression or almost absolute mastery of tech- 
nique — for it is quite obvious that the English poet was 
indebted to Baudelaire for all the bizarre and satanic 
elements in his work; as Baudelaire was indebted to Poe. 
Mr. Swinburne, however, is wild where Baudelaire is 
grave; and where Baudelaire compresses some perverse 
and morbid image into a single unforgettable line, Mr. 
Swinburne beats it into a froth of many musical lovely 
words, until we forget the deep sea in the shining foam. 

If we call to mind the reception at first given to the 
black-and-white work of Aubrey Beardsley, it will give 
some idea of the consternation caused in France by the 
appearance of the Flowers of Evil. Beardsley, indeed, 
resembles Baudelaire in many ways, for he achieved in 
art what the other achieved in literature: the apotheosis 
of the horrible and grotesque, the perfecting of symbols 
to shadow forth intellectual sin, the tearing away of the 
decent veil of forgetfulness that hides our own corrup- 
tion from our eyes, and his one prose romance, Under the 
Hill, unhappily incomplete at his death at the age of 



CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 19 

twenty-four, beats Baudelaire on his own ground. The 
four or five chapters which alone remain of this incom- 
plete romance stand alone in literature. They are the ab- 
solute attainment of what Baudelaire more or less suc- 
cessfully attempted — a testament of sin. Not the sin of 
the flesh, the gross faults of the body that are vulgarly 
known as sin ; but sin which is a metaphysical corruption, 
a depravity of pure intellect, the sin of the fallen angels 
in hell who cover their anguish with the sound of harps 
and sweet odours; who are incapable of bodily impurity, 
and for whom spiritual purity is the only terror. And 
since mortality, which is the shadow of the immortal, 
can comprehend spiritual and abstract things only by the 
analogies and correspondences which exist between them 
and the far reflections of them that we call reality, both 
Baudelaire and Beardsley, as indeed all artists who speak 
with tongues of spiritual truth, choose more or less actual 
human beings to be the shadows of the divine or satanic 
beings they would invoke, and make them sin delicate 
sins of the refined bodily sense that we may get a far-off 
glimpse of the Evil that is not mortal but immortal, the 
Spiritual Evil that has set up its black throne beside the 
throne of Spiritual Good, and has equal share in the 
shaping of the world and man. 

I am not sure that Baudelaire, when he wrote this 
sinister poetry, had any clear idea that it was his voca- 
tion to be a prophet either of good or evil. Certainly 
he had no thought of founding a school of poetry, and if 
he made any conscious effort to bring a new method into 
literature, it was merely because he desired to be one 
of the famous writers of his country. An inspired thinker, 
however, whether his inspiration be mighty or small, re- 
ceives his thought from a profounder source than his 
own physical reason, and writes to the dictation of beings 
outside of and greater than Jiimself. The famous Eliphas 



20 CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 

Levi, like all the mystics who came before and after 
him, from Basilides the Gnostic to Blake the English 
visionary, taught that the poet and dreamer are the 
mediums of the Divine Word, and sole instruments 
through which the gods energise in the world of material 
things. The writing of a great book is the casting of ?i 
pebble into the pool of human thought; it gives rise to 
ever-widening circles that will reach we know not whither, 
and begins a chain of circumstances that may end in the 
destruction of kingdoms and religions and the awaken- 
ing of new gods. The change wrought, directly or in- 
directly, by The Flowers of Evil alone is almost too 
great to be properly understood. There is perhaps not a 
man in Europe to-day whose outlook on life would not 
have been different had The Flowers of Evil never been 
written. The first thing that happens after the publica- 
tion of such a book is the theft of its ideas and the imi- 
tation of its style by the lesser writers who labour for 
the multitude, and so its teaching goes from book to 
book, from the greater to the lesser, as the divine hier- 
archies emanate from Divinity, until ideas that were 
once paradoxical, or even blasphemous and unholy, have 
become mere newspaper commonplaces adopted by the 
numberless thousands who do not think for themselves, 
and the world's thought is changed completely, though 
by infinite slow degrees. The immediate result of Baude- 
laire's work was the Decadent School in French litera- 
ture. Then the influence spread across the Channel, and 
the English ^Esthetes arose to preach the gospel of 
imagination to the unimaginative. Both Decadence and 
^stheticism, as intellectual movements, have fallen into 
the nadir of oblivion, and the dust lies heavy upon them, 
but they left a little leaven to lighten the heavy inertness 
of correct and academic literature; and now Symbolism, 
a greater movement than either, is in the ascendant, giv- 



CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 21 

ing another turn to the wheel, and to all who think 
deeply about such matters it seems as though Symbolist 
literature is to be the literature of the future. The De- 
cadents and ^Esthetes were weak because they had no 
banner to fight beneath, no authority to appeal to in de- 
fence of their views, no definite gospel to preach. They 
were by turns morbid, hysterical, foolishly blasphemous, 
or weakly disgusting, but never anything for long, their 
one desire being to produce a thrill at any cost.. If the 
hospital failed they went to fhe brothel, and when even 
obscenity failed to stimulate the jaded palates of their 
generation there was still the graveyard left. A more 
or less successful imitation of Baudelaire's awful verses 
entitled "The Corpse" has been the beginning of more 
than one French poet's corrupt flight across the sky of 
literature. That Baudelaire himself was one of their 
company is not an accusation, for he had genius, which 
his imitators, English or French, have not; and his book, 
even apart from the fact that it made straight the way for 
better things, must be admitted to be a great and subtly- 
wrought work of art by whosoever reads it with under- 
standing. And, moreover, his morbidness is not at all 
an affectation; his poems inevitably prove the writer to 
have been quite sincere in his perversion and in his 
decadence. 

The Symbolist writers of to-day, though they are 
sprung from him, are greater than he because they are 
the prophets of a faith who believe in what they preach. 
They find their defence in the writings of the mystics, 
and their doctrines are at the root of every religion. 
They were held by the Gnostics and are in the books ol 
the Kabbalists and the Magi. Blake preached them 
and Eliphas Levi taught them to his disciples in France, 
who in turn have misunderstood and perverted them, and 
formed strange religions and sects of Devil-worshippers. 



22 CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 

These doctrines hold that the visible world is the world 
of illusion, not of reality. Colour and sound and per- 
fume and all material and sensible things are but the 
symbols and far-off reflections of the things that are 
alone real. ' Reality is hidden away from us by the five 
senses and the gates of death; and Reason, the blind and 
laborious servant of the physical brain, deludes us into 
believing that we can know anything of truth through 
the medium of the senses. It is through the imagination 
alone that man can obtain spiritual revelation, for imagi- 
nation is the one window in the prison-house of the flesh 
through which the soul can see the proud images of 
eternity. And Blake, who is the authority of all Eng- 
lish Symbolist writers, long since formulated their creed 
in words that have been quoted again and again, and 
must still be quoted by all who write in defence of mod- 
ern art: — "The world of imagination is the world of 
Eternity. It is the divine bosom into which we shall 
all go after the death of the vegetated body. This world 
of imagination is infinite and eternal, whereas the world 
of generation, or vegetation, is finite and temporal. There 
exist in that eternal world the permanent realities of 
everything which we see reflected in this vegetable glass 
of nature." 

In spite of the cry against Flowers of Evil, Baudelaire 
did not lack defenders among literary men themselves; 
and many enthusiastic articles were written in praise of 
his book. Thierry not unjustly compared him to Dante, 
to which Barbey d'Aurevilly replied, ''Baudelaire comes 
from hell, Dante only went there"; adding at the finish 
of his article: "After the Flowers of Evil there are only 
two possible ways for the poet who made them blossom: 
either to blow out his brains or become a Christian." 
Baudelaire did neither. And Victor Hugo, after reading 
the two poems, "The Seven Old Men" and "The Little 



CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 23 

Old Women," wrote to Baudelaire. "You have dowered 
the heaven of art with one knows not what deathly 
gleam," he said in his letter; "you have created a new 
shudder." The phrase became famous, and for many 
years after this the creation of a new shudder was the 
ambition of every young French writer worth his salt. 

When the first great wave of public astonishment had 
broken and ebbed, Baudelaire's work began to be appre- 
ciated by others than merely literary men, by all in fact 
who cared for careful art and subtle thinking, and before 
long he was admitted to be the greatest after Hugo who 
had written French verse. He was famous and he was un- 
happy. Neither glory, nor love, nor friendship — and he 
knew them all — could minister to the disease of that fierce 
mind, seeking it knew not what and never finding it; 
seeking it, unhappily, in the strangest excesses. He took 
opium to quieten his nerves when they trembled, for 
something to do when they did not, and made immoder- 
ate use of hashish to produce visions and heighten his 
phantasy. His life was a haunted weariness. Thomas 
de Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater 
seems to have fascinated him to a great extent, for be- 
sides imitating the vices of the author, he wrote, in imita- 
tion of his book, The Artificial Paradises, a monograph 
on the effects of opium and hashish, partly original, partly 
a mere translation from the Confessions. 

He remembered his visions and sensations as an eater 

of drugs and made literary use of them. At the end 

of this book, among the "Poems in Prose," will be found 

one entitled "The Double Chamber," almost certainly 

written under the influence of opium, and the last verse 

ol "The Temptation"— 

"O mystic metamorphosis! 

My senses into one sense flow — 
Her voice makes perfume when she speaks, 
Her breath is music faint and low!" 



24 CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 

as well as the last six lines of that profound sonnet "Cor- 
respondences" — 

"Some perfumes are as fragrant as a child, 
Sweet as the sound of hautboys, meadow-green;. 
Others, corrupted, rich, exultant, wild, 
Have all the expansion of things infinite : 
As amber, incense, musk, and benzoin, 
Which sing the sense's and the soul's delight," 

are certainly memories of a sensation he experienced un- 
der the influence of hashish, as recorded in The Artificial 
Paradises, where he has this curious passage: — "The 
senses become extraordinarily acute and fine. The eyes 
pierce Infinity. The ear seizes the most unseizable sounds 
in the midst of the shrillest noises. Hallucinations com- 
mence External objects talie on monstrous appearances 
and show themselves under forms hitherto unknown. 
. . . The most singular equivocations, the most inex- 
plicable transposition of ideas, take place. Sounds are 
perceived to have a colour, and colour becomes musical.'* 
Baudelaire need not have gone to hashish to discover 
this. The mystics of all times have taught that sounds 
in gross matter produce colour in subtle matter; and all 
who are subject to any visionary condition know that 
when in trance colours will produce words of a language 
whose meaning is forgotten as soon as one awakes to nor- 
mal life; but I do not think Baudelaire was a visionary. 
His work shows too precise a method, and a too ordered 
appreciation of the artificial in beauty. There again 
he is comparable to Aubrey Beardsley, for I have read 
somewhere that when Beardsley was asked if ever he 
saw visions, he replied, "I do not permit myself to see 
them, except upon paper." The whole question of the 
colour of sound is one of supreme interest to the poet, 
but it is too difficult and abstract a question to be writ- 
ten of here. A famous sonnet by Rimbaud on the colour 



CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 25 

of the vowels has founded a school of symbolists in 
France. I will content myself with quoting that — in the 
original, since it loses too much, by translation: 

"A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu, voyelles, 
Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes, 
A, noir corset velu des mouches eclatantes 
Qui bourdonnent autour des puanteurs cruelles,. 
Golfes d'ombres; E, candeurs des vapeurs et des tentes. 
Lances des glaciers fiers, rois blancs, frissons d'ombrelles; 
I, poupre, sang crache, rire des levres belles 
Dans la colere qu les ivresses penitentes; 
U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides, 
Paix des patis semes d'animaux, paix des rides 
Que ralchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux. 
O, supreme clairon, plein de strideurs etranges, 
Silences traverses des mondea et des anges. 
— O rOmega, rayon violet de ses yeux." 

It is to be hoped that opium and hashish rendered 
Baudelaire somewhat less unhappy during his life, for 
they certainly contributed to hasten his death. Always 
of an extremely neurotic temperament, he began to break 
down beneath his excesses, and shortly after the publica- 
tion of The Artificial Paradises, which shows a consider- 
able deterioration in his style, he removed from Paris to 
Brussels in the hope of building up his health by the 
change. At Brussels he grew worse. His speech began 
to fail; he was unable to pronounce certain words and 
stumbled over others. Hallucinations commenced, no 
longer the hallucinations of hashish; and his disease, 
rapidly estabtishing itself, was recognised as "general 
paralysis of the insane." Gautier tells how the news 
of his death came to Paris while he yet lived. It was 
false news, but prematurely true. Baudelaire lingered 
on for another three months; motionless and inert, his 
eyes the only part of him alive; unable to speak or even 
to write, and so died. 

He left, besides The Flowers of Evil and Little Poems 



26 CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 

in Prose (his masterpieces), several volumes of critical 
essays, published under the titles of ^Esthetic Curiosities 
and Romantic Art; The Artificial Paradises, and his 
translations of the works of Edgar Allan Poe — admirable 
pieces of work by which Poe actually gains. 

in 

Baudelaire's love of the artificial has been insisted 
upon by all who have studied his work, but to my mind 
never sufficiently insisted upon, for it was the founda- 
tion of his method. He wrote many arguments in favour 
of the artificial, and elaborated them into a kind of para- 
doxical philosophy of art. His hatred of nature and 
purely natural things was but a perverted form of the 
religious ecstasy that made the old monk pull his cowl 
about his eyes when he left his cell in the month of May, 
lest he should see the blossoming trees, and his mind be 
turned towards the beautiful delusions of the world. The 
Egyptians and the earliest of the Christians looked 
upon nature not as the work of the good and benevolent 
spirit who is the father of our souls, but as the work of 
the rebellious "gods of generation," who fashion beauti- 
ful things to capture the heart of man and bind his 
Soul to earth. Blake, whom I have already quoted, hated 
nature in the same fashion, and held death to be the one 
way of escape from "the delusions of goddess Nature and 
her laws." Baudelaire's revolt against external things 
was more a revolt of the intellect than of the imagina- 
tion; and he expresses it, not by desiring that the things 
of nature should be swept away to make room for the 
things of the spirit, but that they should be so changed 
by art that they cease to be natural. As he was of all 
poets the most intensely modem, holding that "modern- 
ity is one-half of art," the other half being something 
"eternal and immutable," he preferred, unlike Blake and 



CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 27 

his modern followers, to express himself in quite modem 
terms, and so wrote his famous and much misunderstood 
Eloge du Maquillage to defend his views. As was usual 
with him, he pushed his ideas to their extreme logical 
sequence, and the casual reader who picks up that ex- 
traordinary essay is in consequence quite misled as to the 
writer's intention. 

It seems scarcely necessary at this time of day to as- 
sert that the Eloge du Maquillage is something more than 
a mere Praise of Cosmetics, written by a man who wished 
to shock his readers. It is the part expression of a theory 
of art, and if it is paradoxical and far-fetched it is be- 
cause Baudelaire wrote at a time when French literature, 
in the words of M. Asselineau, "was dying of correct- 
ness," and needed y^ry vigorous treatment indeed. If 
the Eloge du Maquillage had been more restrained in 
manner, if it had not been something so entirely con- 
trary to all accepted ideas of the well-regulated citizen 
who never thinks a thought that somebody else has not 
put into his head, it might have been passed over without 
notice. It was written to initiate the profane; to make 
them think, at least ; and not to raise a smile among the 
initiated. And moreover, it was in a manner a defence 
of his own work that had met with so much hatred and 
opposition. 

He begins by attempting to prove that Nature is in- 
nately and fundamentally wrong and wicked. "The 
greater number of errors relative to the beautiful date 
from the eighteenth century's false cenceptions of mo- 
rality. Nature was regarded in those times as the base, 
source, and type of all possible good and beauty. . . . 
If, however, we consent to refer simply to the visible 
facts, ... we see that Nature teaches nothing, or 
almost nothing. That is to say, she forces man to sleep, 
to drink, to eat, and to protect himself, well or ill, against 



•28 CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 

the hostilities of the atmosphere. It is she also who 
moves him to kill and eat or imprison and torture his 
kind; for, as soon as we leave the region of necessities 
and needs to enter into that of luxuries and pleasures, 
we see that Nature is no better than a counsellor to 
crime. . . . Religion commands us to nourish our poor 
and infirm parents; Nature (the voice of our own inter- 
est) commands us to do away with them. Pass in re- 
view, analyse all that is natural, all the actions and de- 
sires of the natural man, and you will find nothing but 
what is horrible. All beautiful and noble things are 
the result of calculation. Crime, the taste for which 
the human animal absorbs before birth, is originally natu- 
ral. Virtue, on the contrary, is artificial, supernatural, 
since there has been a necessity in all ages and among 
all nations for gods and prophets to preach virtue to hu- 
manity; since man alone would have been unable to dis- 
cover it. Evil is done without effort, naturally and by 
fatality ; good is always the product of an art." 

So far the argument is straightforward and expresses 
what many must have thought, but Baudelaire, remem- 
bering that exaggeration is the best way of impressing 
one's ideas upon the unimaginative, immediately carries 
his argument from the moral order to the order of the 
beautiful, and applies it there. The result is strange 
enough. "I am thus led to regard personal adornment 
as one of the signs of the primitive nobility of the hu- 
man soul. The races that our confused and perverted 
civilisation, with a fatuity and pride entirely laughable, 
treats as savages, understand as does the child the high 
spirituality of the toilet. The savage and the child, by 
their naive love of all brilliant things, of glittering plum- 
age and shining stuffs, and the superlative majesty of 
artificial forms, bear witness to their distaste for reality, 



CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 29 

and so prove, unknown to then^lves, the immateriality 
of their souls." 

Thus, with some appearance of logic, he carries his 
argument a step farther, and this immediately brings 
him to the bizarre 'conclusion that the more beautiful a 
woman naturally is, the more she should hide her natu- 
ral beauty beneath the artificial charm of rouge and 
powder. "She performs a duty in attempting to appear 
magical and supernatural. She is an idol who must adorn 
herself to be adored." Powder and rouge and kohl, all 
the httle artifices that shock respectability, have for 
their end "the creation of an abstract unity in the grain 
and colour of the skin." This unity brings the human 
being nearer to the condition of a statue — that is to say, 
"a divine and superior being." Red and black are the 
symbols of "an excessive and supernatural life." A touch 
of kohl "lends to the eye a more decided appearance of 
a window opened upon infinity"; and rouge augments the 
brilliance of the eye, "and adds to a beautiful feminine 
face the mysterious passion of the priestess." But arti- 
fice cannot make ugliness any the less ugly, nor help 
age to rival youth. "Who dare assign to art the sterile 
function of imitating nature?" Deception, if it is to 
have any charm, must be obvious and unashamed; it 
must be displayed "if not with affectation, at least with 
a kind of candour." 

Such theories as these, if they are sincerely held, neces- 
sarily lead the theorist into the strangest b5T)aths of 
literature. Baudelaire, like many another writer whose 
business is with verse, pondered so long upon the musical 
and rhythmical value of words that at times words be- 
came meaningless to him. He thought his own language 
too simple to express the complexities of poetic reverie, 
and dreamed of writing his poems in Latin. Not, how- 
ever, in the Latin of classical times ; that was too robust, 



30 CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 

too natural, too "brutal and purely epidermic," to use 
an expression of his own; but in the corrupt Latin of the 
Byzantine decadence, which he considered as "the su- 
preme sigh of a strong being already transformed and 
prepared for the spiritual life." 

One of these Latin poems has appeared in all editions 
of The Flowers of Evil. Though dozens as good are to 
be found in the Breviary of the Roman Church, "Fran- 
ciscae Meae Laudes" has been included in this selection 
for the benefit of those curious in such matters. It is 
one of Baudelaire's many successful steps in the wrong 
direction. 

IV 

In almost every line of The Flowers of Evil one can 
trace the influence of Edgar Poe, and in the many places 
where Baudelaire has attained a pure imaginative beauty 
as in "The Sadness of the Moon" or "Music" or "The 
Death of Lovers," it is a beauty that would have pleased 
the author of Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. 
Another kind of beauty, the beauty of death — for in 
Baudelaire's crucible everything is melted into loveliness 
— is even more directly traceable to Poe. In spite of the 
sonnet "Correspondences," and in spite of his Symbolist 
followers of the present day, Baudelaire himself made 
but an imperfect use of such symbols as he had; and 
these he found ready to his hand in the works of the 
American poet. The Tomb, the symbol of death or of an 
intellectual darkness inhabited by the Worm, who is re- 
morse; the Abyss, which is the despair into which the 
mortal part of man's mind plunges when brought into 
contact with dead and perishing substances; all these are 
borrowed from Poe. The Worm, who "devours with a 
kiss," occasionally becomes Time devouring life, or the 
Demon, "the obscure Enemy who gnaws the heart" ; and 



CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 31 

when it is none of these it is the Serpent, as in that 
sombre poem "To a Madonna" — the Serpent beneath the 
feet of conquering purity. Baudelaire's imagination, 
however, which continually ran upon macabre images, 
loved remorse more than peace, and loved the Serpent 
more than the purity that would slay it, so he destroys 
purity with "Seven Knives" which are "the Seven Deadly 
Sins," that the Serpent may live to prey upon a heart 
that finds no beauty in peace. Even Love is evil, for his 
*'ancient arrows" are "crime, horror, folly," and the god 
Eros becomes a demon lying in wait: 

"Let us love gently. Love, from his retreat 
Ambushed and shadowy, bends his fatal bow, 
And I too well his ancient arrows know: 
Crime, Horror, Folly. . . ." 

Gautier pretends that the poet preserved his ideal under 
the form of "the adorable phantom of La Beatrix, the 
ideal ever desired, never attained, the divine and superior 
beauty incarnated in an ethereal woman, spiritualised, 
made of light and flame and perfume, a vapour, a dream, 
a reflection of the seraphical world"; but when Baude- 
laire has a vision of this same Beatrice he sees her as one 
of a crowd of "cruel and curious demons" who mock 
at his sorrow, and she, too, mocks him, and caresses the 
demons who are his spiritual foes. 

Baudelaire was too deeply in love with the artificial 
to care overmuch for the symbols he could have found 
among natural objects. Only once in The Flowers of 
Evil does he look upon the Moon with the eyes of a 
mystic; and that is when he remembers that all people 
of imagination are under the Moon's influence, and makes 
his poet hide her iridescent tear in his heart, "far from 
the eyes of the Sun," for the Sun is lord of material la- 
bours and therefore hostile to the dreams and reveries 



32 CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 

that are the activity of the poet. He sought more for 
bizarre analogies and striking metaphors than for true 
symbols or correspondences. He is happiest when com- 
paring the vault of the heaven to "the lighted ceiling of 
a music hall," or "the black lid of the mighty pot where 
the human generations boil"; and when he thinks of the 
imfortunate and unhappy folk of the world, he does not 
see any hope for them in any future state; he sees, 
simply, "God's awful claw" stretched out to tear them. 
He offers pity, but no comfort. 

Sometimes he has a vision of a beauty unmingled with 
any malevolence; but it is always evoked by sensuous 
and material things; perfume or music; and always it is 
a sorrowful loveliness he mourns or praises. Perhaps of 
all his poems "The Balcony" is most full of that tender 
and reverential melancholy we look for in a poem of 
love; but even it tells of a passion that has faded out 
of heart and mind and become beautiful only with its 
passing away, and not of an existing love. The other 
love poems — if indeed such a name can be given to "A 
Madrigal of Sorrow," "The Eyes of Beauty," "The Re- 
morse of the Dead," and the like — are nothing but ter- 
rible confessions of satiety, or cruelty, or terror. I have 
translated "The Corpse," his most famous and most 
infamous poem, partly because it shows him at his worst 
as the others in the volume at his best, partly because 
it is something of the nature of a literary curiosity. A 
poem like "The Corpse," which is simply an example of 
what may happen if any writer pushes his theories to the 
extreme, does not at all detract, be it said, from Baude- 
laire's delicate genius; for though he may not be quite 
worthy of a place by Dante, he has written poems that 
Dante might have been proud to write, and he is worthy 
to be set among the very greatest of the modems, along- 
side Hugo and Verlaine. Read the sonnet entitled 



CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 33 

"Beauty" and you will see how he has invoked in four- 
teen lines the image of a goddess, mysterious and immor- 
tal; as fair as that Aphrodite who cast the shadow of 
her loveliness upon the Golden Age; as terrible as Pallas, 
"the warrior maid invincible." And as Minerva loved 
mortality in the person of Ulysses, so Baudelaire's per- 
sonification of Beauty loves the poets who pray before 
her and gaze into her eternal eyes, watching the rising 
and setting of their visionary Star in those placid mir- 
rors. 

The explanation of most of Baudelaire's morbid 
imaginings is this, that he was a man haunted by terrible 
dream-like memories; chief among them the memory that 
the loveliness he had adored in woman — the curve of a 
perfect cheek, the lifting of a perfect arm in some gesture 
of imperial indolence, the fall of a curl across a pale 
brow, all the minute and unforgettable things that give 
immortality to some movement of existence — all these, 
and the woman and her lover, must pass away from Time 
and Space; and he, unhappily, knew nothing of the phi- 
losophy that teaches us how all objects and events, even 
the most trivial — a woman's gesture, a rose, a sigh, a fad- 
ing flame, the sound that trembles on a lute-string — find 
a place in Eternity when they pass from the recognition 
of our senses. If he believed in the deathlessness of 
man's personality he gained no comfort from his belief. 
He mourned the body's decay; he was not concerned 
with the soul ; and no heaven less palpable than Moham- 
med's could have had any reality in his imagination. 

His prose is as distinguished in its manner as his 
verse. I think it was Professor Saintsbury who first 
brought The Little Poems in Prose, a selection from 
which is included in this volume, before the notice of 
English readers in an essay written many years ago. I 
am writing this in France, far from the possibility of 



34 CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 

consulting any English books, but if my memory serves 
me rightly he considered the prose of these prose poems 
to be as perfect as literature can be. I think he said, 
"they go as far as prose can go." They need no other 
introduction than thepiselves, for they are perfect of their 
kind, and not different in thought from the more elab- 
orately wrought poems of The Flowers of Evil. Some of 
them, as for instance "Every Man His Chimaera," are 
as classical and as universally true as the myths and sym- 
bolisms of the Old Testament; and all of them, I think, 
are worthy of a place in that book the Archangel of the 
Presence will consult when all is weighed in the balance 
— the book written by man himself, the record of his deep 
and shallow imaginings. Baudelaire wrote them, he 
said, because he had dreamed, "in his days of ambition," 
"of a miracle of poetical prose, musical without rhythm 
and without rhyme." His attitude of mind was always 
so natural to him that he never thought it necessary to 
make any excuse for the spirit of his art or the drear 
philosophy he preached ; unless a short notice printed in 
the first edition of his poems, but withdrawn from the 
second edition, explaining that "faithful to his dolorous 
programme, the author of The Flowers of Evil, as a per- 
fect comedian, has had to mould his spirit to all sophisms 
as to all corruptions," can be considered as an excuse. 
From whatever point of view we regard him : whether we 
praise his art and blame his philosophy, or blame his art 
and praise his philosophy, he is as difficult to analyse 
as he is difficult to give a place to, for we have none with 
whom to compare him, or very few, too few to be of ser- 
vice to the critic. His art is like the pearl, a beautiful 
product of disease, and to blame it is like blaming the 
pearl. 

He looked upon life very much as Poe, whom he so 
admired, looked upon it: with the eye of a sensitive 



CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 35 

spectator in some gloomy vault of the Spanish Inquisi- 
tion, where beauty was upon the rack; he was horrified, 
but unable to turn from a sight that fascinated him 
by its very terror. His moments of inspiration are haunt- 
ed by the consciousness that evil beings, clothed with hor- 
ror as with a shroud, are ever lingering about the temple 
of life and awaiting an opportunity to enter. He was 
like a man who awakens trembling from a nightmare, 
afraid of the darkness, and unable to believe the dawn 
may be less hopeless than the midnight. Perhaps he 
was haunted, as many artists and all mystics, by a fear of 
madness and of the unseen world of evil shapes that 
sanity hides from us and madness reveals. Is there a 
man, is there a writer, especially, who has not at times 
been conscious of a vague and terrible fear that the 
whole world of visible nature is but a comfortable illu- 
sion that may fade away in a moment and leave him 
face to face with the horror that has visited him in 
dreams? The old occult writers held that the evil 
thoughts of others beget phantoms in the air that can 
make themselves bodies out of our fear, and haunt even 
our waking moments. These were the shapes of terror 
that haunted Baudelaire. Shelley, too, writes of them 
with as profound a knowledge as the magical writer of 
the Middle Ages. They come to haunt his Prometheus. 

"Blackening the birth of day with countless wings, 
And hollow underneath, like death." 

They are the elemental beings who dwell beside the 
soul of the dreamer and the poet, "like a vain loud mul- 
titude"; turning life into death and all beautiful thoughts 
into poems like The Flowers of Evil, or into tales like 
the Satanic reveries of Edgar Poe. 

"We are the ministers of pain, and fear. 
And disappointment, and mistrust, and hate. 
And clinging crime; and as lean dogs pursue 



36 CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 

Through wood and lake some struck and sobbing fawn, 
We track all things that weep, and bleed, and live, 
When the great King betrays them to our will." 

And every man gives them of the substance of his imagi- 
nation to clothe them in prophetic shapes that are the 
images of his destiny: 

"From our victim's destined agony 
The shade which is our form invests us round, 
Else we are shapeless as our mother Night." 

The greatest of all poets conquer their dreams; others, 
who are great, but not of the greatest, are conquered by 
them, and Baudelaire was one of these. There is a pas- 
sage in the works of Edgar Poe that Baudelaire may well 
have pondered as he laboured at his translation, for it 
reveals the secret of his life: "There are moments when, 
even to the sober eye of reason, the world of our sad hu- 
manity may assume the semblance of a hell; but the 
imagination of man is no Carathis to explore with im- 
punity its every cavern. Alas! the grim legion of sepul- 
chral terrors cannot be regarded as altogether fanciful; 
but, like the demons in whose company Afrasiab made 
his voyage down the Oxus, they must sleep or they will 
devour us — they must be suffered to slumber or we 
perish." 



POEMS IN PROSE 

Translated by Arthur Symons 



NOTE 

The "Petits Poemes en Prose" are experiments, and 
they are also confessions. "Who of us," says Baudelaire 
in his dedicatory preface, "has not dreamed, in moments 
of ambition, of the miracle of a poetic prose, musical 
without rhythm and without rhyme, subtle and staccato 
enough to follow the lyric motions of the soul, the waver- 
ing outlines of meditation, the sudden starts of the con- 
science?" This miracle he has achieved in these baga- 
telles laborieuses, to use his own words, these astonishing 
trifles, in which the art is not more novel, precise and 
perfect than the qualitj- of thought and of emotion. 
In translating into English a few of these little master- 
pieces, which have given me so much delight for so many 
years, I have tried to be absolutely faithful to the sense, 
the words, and the rhythm of the original. A. S. 



THE FAVOURS OF THE MOON 

The Moon, who is caprice itself, looked in through 
the window when you lay asleep in your cradle, and said 
inwardly: "This is a child after my own soul." 

And she came softly down the staircase of the clouds, 
and passed noiselessly through the window-pane. Then 
she laid herself upon you with the supple tenderness of a 
mother, and she left her colours upon your face. That is 
why your eyes are green and your cheeks extraordinarily 
pale. It was when you looked at her, that your pupils 
widened so strangely; and she clasped her arms so ten- 
derly about your throat that ever since you have had 
the longing for tears. 

Nevertheless, in the flood of her joy, the Moon filled 
the room like a phosphoric atmosphere, like a luminous 
poison; and all this living light thought and said: "My 
kiss shall be upon you for ever. You shall be beautiful 
as I am beautiful. You shall love that which I love and 
that by which I am loved: water and clouds, night and 
silence; the vast green sea; the formless and multiform 
water; the place where you shall never be; the lover 
whom you shall never know; unnatural flowers; odours 
which make men drunk; the cats that languish upon 
pianos and sob like women, with hoarse sweet voices! 

"And you shall be loved by my lovers, courted by my 
courtiers. You shall be the queen of men who have green 
eyes, and whose throats I have clasped by night in my 
caresses; of those that love the sea, the vast tumultuous 
green sea, formless and multiform water, the place where 
they are not, the woman whom they know not, the omi- 

39 



40 POEMS IN PROSE 

nous flowers that are like the censers of an unknown rite, 
the odours that trouble the will, and the savage and 
voluptuous beasts that are the emblems of their folly." 

And that is why, accursed dear spoilt child, I lie now 
at your feet, seeking to find in you the image of the fear- 
ful goddess, the fateful god-mother, the poisonous nurse 
of all the moonstruck of the world. 

II 

WHICH IS TRUE? 

I KNEW one Benedicta who filled earth and air with the 
ideal; and from whose eyes men learnt the desire of 
greatness, of beauty, of glory, and of all whereby we 
believe in immortality. 

But this miraculous child was too beautiful to live 
long; and she died only a few days after I had come, 
to know her, and I buried her with my own hands, one 
day when Spring shook out her censer in the graveyards. 
I buried her with my own hands, shut down into a coffin 
of wood, perfumed and incorruptible like Indian caskets. 

And as I still gazed at the place where I had laid 
away my treasure, I saw all at once a little person singu- 
larly like the deceased, who trampled on the fresh soil 
with a strange and hysterical violence, and said, shriek- 
ing with laughter: "Look at me! I am the real Bene- 
dicta! a pretty sort of baggage I am! And to punish you 
for your blindness and folly you shall love me just as 
lam!" 

But I was furious, and I answered: "No! no! no!" 
And to add more emphasis to my refusal I stamped on 
the ground so violently with my foot that my leg sank 
up to the knee in the earth of the new grave; and now, 
like a wolf caught in a trap, I remain fastened, perhaps 
for ever, to the grave of the ideal. 



POEMS IN PROSE 41 

III 
'X'INVITATION AU VOYAGE" 

There is a wonderful country, a country of Cockaigne, 
they say, which I dreamed of visiting with an old friend. 
It is a strange country, lost in the mists of our North, 
and one might call it the East of the West, the China of 
Europe, so freely does a warm and capricious fancy 
flourish there, and so patiently and persistently has that 
fancy illustrated it with a learned and delicate vegeta- 
tion. 

A real country of Cockaigne, where everything is beau- 
tiful, rich, quiet, honest; where order is the likeness and 
the mirror of luxury; where life is fat, and sweet to 
breathe; where disorder, tumult, and the unexpected are 
shut out; where happiness is wedded to silence; where 
even cooking is poetic, rich and highly flavoured at once; 
where all, dear love, is made in your image. 

You know that feverish sickness which comes over 
us in our cold miseries, that nostalgia of unknown lands, 
that anguish of curiosity? There is a country made in 
your image, where all is beautiful, rich, quiet and honest; 
where fancy has built and decorated a western China, 
where life is sweet to breathe, where happiness is wed- 
ded to silence. It is there that we should live, it is there 
that we should die! 

Yes, it is there that we should breathe, dream, and 
lengthen out the hours by the infinity of sensations. A 
musician has written an "Invitation a la Valse": who 
will compose the "Invitation au Voyage" that we can of- 
fer to the beloved, to the chosen sister? 

Yes, it is in this atmosphere that it would be good to 
live; far off, where slower hours contain more thought^ 



42 POEMS IN PROSE 

where clocks strike happiness with a deeper and more 
significant solemnity. 

On shining panels, or on gilded leather of a dark rich- 
ness, slumbers the discreet life of pictures, deep, calm,, 
and devout, as the souls of the painters who created it. 
The sunsets which colour so richly the walls of dining- 
room and drawing-room, are sifted through beautiful 
hangings or through tall wro^^ght windows leaded into 
many panes. The pieces of furniture are large, curious, 
and fantastic, armed with, locks and secrets like refined 
souls. Mirrors, metals, hangings, goldsmith's work and 
pottery, play for the eyes a mute and mysterious S5an- 
phony; and from all things, from every corner, from the 
cracks of drawers and from the folds of hangings, ex- 
hales a singular odour, a "forget-me-not" of Sumatra, 
which is, as it were, the soul of the abode. 

A real country of Cockaigne, I assure you, where all 
is beautiful, clean, and shining, like a clear conscience, 
like a bright array of kitchen crockery, like splendid 
jewellery of gold, like many-coloured jewellery of silver! 
All the treasures of the world have found their way there, 
as to the house of a hard-working man who has put the 
whole world in his debt. Singular country, excelling 
others as Art excels Nature, where Nature is refashioned 
by dreams, where Nature is. corrected, embellished, re- 
moulded. 

Let the alchemists of horticulture seek and seek again, 
let them set ever further and further back the limits to 
their happiness! Let them offer prizes of sixty and of a 
hundred thousand florins to whoever will solve their am- 
bitious problems! For me, I have found my "black 
tulip" and my "blue dahlia!" 

Incomparable flower, recaptured tulip, allegoric dahlia, 
it is there, is it not, in that beautiful country, so calm 
and so full of dreams, that you live and flourish? There; 



POEMS IN PROSE 43 

would you not be framed within your own analogy, and 
would you not see yourself again, reflected, as the mystics 
say, in your own "correspondence"? 

Dreams, dreams ever! and the more delicate and am- 
bitious the soul, the further do dreams estrange it from 
possible things. Every man carries within himself his 
natural dose of opium, ceaselessly secreted and renewed, 
and, from birth to death, how many hours can we reckon 
of positive pleasure, of successful and decided action? 
Shall we ever live in, shall we ever pass into, that pic- 
ture which my mind has painted, that picture made in 
your image? 

These treasures, this furniture, this luxury, this order, 
these odours, these miraculous flowers, are you. You 
too are the great rivers and the quiet canals. The vast 
ships that drift down them, laden with riches, from 
whose decks comes the sound of the monotonous songs 
of labouring sailors, are my thoughts which slumber or 
rise and fall on your breast. You lead them softly 
towards the sea, which is the infinite, mirroring the 
depths of the sky in the crystal clearness of your soul; 
and when, weary of the surge and heavy with the spoils 
of the East, they return to the port of their birth, it is still 
my thoughts that come back enriched out of the infin- 
ite to you. 

IV 

THE EYES OF THE POOR 

Ah! you want to know why I hate you to-day. It 
will probably be less easy for you to understand than 
for me to explain it to you; for you are, I think, the 
most perfect example of feminine impenetrability that 
could possibly be found. 



44 POEMS IN PROSE 

We had spent a long day together, and it had seemed 
to me short. We had promised one another that we 
would think the same thoughts and that our two souls 
should become one soul; a dream which is not original, 
after all, except that, dreamed by all men, it has been 
realised by none. 

In the evening you were a little tired, and you sat 
down outside a new cafe at the comer of a new boule- 
vard, still littered with plaster and already displaying 
proudly its unfinished splendours. The cafe glittered. 
The very gas put on all the fervency of a fresh start, and 
lighted up with its full force the blinding whiteness of 
the walls, the dazzling sheets of glass in the mirrors, the 
gilt of cornices and mouldings, the chubby-cheeked pages 
straining back from hounds in leash, the ladies laugh- 
ing at the falcons on their wrists, the nymphs and god- 
desses carrying fruits and pies and game on their heads, 
the Hebes and Ganymedes holding out at arm's-length 
little jars of syrups or parti-coloured obelisks of ices; 
the whole of history and of mythology brought together 
to make a paradise for gluttons. Exactly opposite to us, 
in the roadway, stood a man of about forty years of age, 
with a weary face and a greyish beard, holding a little 
boy by one hand and carrying on the other arm a little 
fellow too weak to walk. He was taking the nurse-maid's 
place, and had brought his children out for a walk in the 
evening. All were in rags. The three faces were ex- 
traordinarily serious, and the six eyes stared fixedly at 
the new cafe with an equal admiration, differentiated in 
each according to age. 

The father's eyes said: "How beautiful it is! how 
beautiful it is! One would think that all the gold of the 
poor world had found its way to these walls." The boy's 
eyes said: "How beautiful it is! how beautiful it is! 
But that is a house which only people who are not like 



POEMS IN PROSE 45 

us can enter." As for the little one's eyes, they were too 
fascinated to express anything but stupid and utter joy. 

Song-writers say that pleasure ennobles the soul and 
softens the heart. The song was right that evening, so 
far as I was concerned. Not only was I touched by this 
family of eyes, but I felt rather ashamed of our glasses 
and decanters, so much too much for our thirst. I turned 
to look at you, dear love, that I might read my own 
thought in you; I gazed deep into your eyes, so beauti- 
ful and so strangely sweet, your green eyes that are the 
home of caprice and under the sovereignty of the Moon ; 
and you said to me: "Those people are insupportable to 
me with their staring saucer-eyes! Couldn't you tell 
the head waiter to send them away?" 

So hard is it to understand one another, dearest, and 
so incommunicable is thought, even between people who 
are in lovel 



V 

WINDOWS 

He who looks in through an open window never sees 
so many things as he who looks at a shut window. There 
is nothing more profound, more mysterious, more fertile, 
more gloomy, or more dazzling, than a window lighted by 
a candle. What we can see in the sunlight is always less 
interesting than what goes on behind the panes of a 
window. In that lark or luminous hollow, life lives, life 
dreams, life suffers. 

Across the waves of roofs, I can see a woman of middle 
age, wrinkled, poor, who is always leaning over some- 
thing, and who never goes out. Out of her face, out of 
her dress, out of her attitude, out of nothing almost, I 



46 POEMS IN PROSE 

have made up the woman's story, and sometimes I say 
it over to myself with tears. 

If it had been a poor old man, I could have made up 
his just as easily. 

And I go to bed, proud of having lived and suffered 
in others. 

Perhaps you will say to^me: "Are you sure that it is 
the real story?" What does it matter, what does any 
reality outside of myself matter, if it has helped me to 
live, to feel that I am, and what I am? 



VI 

CROWDS 

It is not given to every man to take a bath of multi- 
tude: to play upon crowds is an art; and he alone can 
plunge, at the expense of humankind, into a debauch of 
vitality, to whom a fairy has bequeathed in his cradle 
the love of masks and disguises, the hate of home and 
the passion of travel. 

Multitude, solitude: equal terms mutually convertible 
by the active and begetting poet. He who does not know 
how to people his solitude, does not know either how to 
be alone in a busy crowd. 

The poet enjoys this incomparable privilege, to be at 
once himself and others. Like those wandering souls that 
\go about seeking bodies, he enters at will the personality 
of every man. For him alone, every place is vacant ; and 
if certain places seem to be closed against him, that is 
because in his eyes they are not worth the trouble of 
visiting. 

The solitary and thoughtful walker derives a singular 
intoxication from this universal communion. He who 



POEMS IN PROSE 47 

mates easily with the crowd knows feverish joys that 
must be for ever unknown to the egoist, shut up like a 
coffer, and to the sluggard, imprisoned like a shell-fish. 
He adopts for his own all the occupations, all the joys 
and all the sorrows that circumstance sets before him. 

What men call love is small indeed, narrow and weak 
indeed, compared with this ineffable orgie, this sacred 
prostitution of the soul which gives itself up wholly 
(poetry and charity!) to the unexpected which happens, 
to the stranger as he passes. ' 

It is good sometimes that the happy of this world 
should learn, were it only to humble their foolish pride 
for an instant, that there are higher, wider, and rarer 
joys than theirs. The founders of colonies, the shep- 
herds of nations, the missionary priests, exiled to the 
ends of the earth, doubtless know something of these 
mysterious intoxications; and, in the midst of the vast 
family that their genius has raised about them, they 
must sometimes laugh at the thought of those who pity 
them for their chaste lives and troubled fortunes. 

VII 

THE CAKE 

I WAS travelling. The landscape in the midst of which 
I was seated was of an irresistible grandeur and sublim- 
ity. Something no doubt at that moment passed from 
it into my soul. My thoughts fluttered with a lightness 
like that of the atmosphere ; vulgar passions, such as hate 
and profane love, seemed to me now as far away as the 
clouds that floaied in the gulfs beneath my feet ; my soul 
seemed to me as vast and pure as the dome of the sky 
that enveloped me; the remembrance of earthly things 
came as faintly to my heart as the thin tinkle of the 



48 POEMS IN PROSE 

bells of unseen herds, browsing far, far away, on the 
slope of another mountain. Across the little motionless 
. lake, black with the darkness of its immense depth, there 
passed from time to time the shadow of a cloud, like the 
shadow of an airy giant's cloak, flying through heaven. 
And I remember that this rare and solemn sensation^ 
caused by a vast and perfectly silent movement, filled me 
with mingled joy and fear. In a word, thanks to the en- 
rapturing beauty about me, I felt that I was at perfect 
peace with myself and with the universe; I even believe 
that, in my complete forgetfulness of all earthly evil, I 
had come to think the newspapers are right after all, and 
man was bom good; when, incorrigible matter renewing 
its exigencies, I sought to refresh the fatigue and satisfy 
the appetite caused by so lengthy a climb. I took from 
my pocket a large piece of bread, a leathern cup, and a 
small bottle of a certain elixir which the chemists at that 
time sold to tourists, to be mixed, on occasion, with liquid 
snow. 

I was quietly cutting my bread when a slight noise 
made me look up. I saw in front of me a little ragged 
urchin, dark and dishevelled, whose hollow eyes, wild and 
supplicating, devoured the piece of bread. And I heard 
him gasp, in a low, hoarse voice, the word: *'Cake!" I 
could not help laughing at the appellation with which he 
thought fit to honour my nearly white bread, and I cut 
off a big slice and offered it to him. Slowly he came up 
to me, not taking his eyes from the coveted object; then, 
snatching it out of my hand, he stepped quickly back, as 
if he feared that my offer was not sincere, or that I had 
already repented of it. 

But at the same instant he was knocked over by an- 
other little savage, who had sprung from I know not 
where, and who was so precisely like the first that one 
might have taken them for twin brothers. They rolled 



POEMS IN PROSE 49 

over on the ground together, struggling for the posses- 
sion of the precious booty, neither willing to share it with 
his brother. The first, exasperated, clutched the second 
by the hair; and the second seized one of the ears of the 
first between his teeth, and spat out a little bleeding 
morsel with a fine oath in dialect. The legitimate propri- 
etor of the cake tried to hook his little claws into the 
usurper's eyes; the latter did his best to throttle his ad- 
versary with one hand, while with the other he en- 
deavoured to slip the prize of' war into his pocket. But, 
heartened by despair, the loser pulled himself together, 
and sent the victor sprawling with a blow of the head in 
his stomach. Why describe a hideous fight which indeed 
lasted longer than their childish strength seemed to prom- 
ise? The cake travelled from hand to hand, and changed 
from pocket to pocket, at every moment; but, alas, it 
changed also in size; and when at length, exhausted, 
panting and bleeding, they stopped from the sheer im- 
possibility of going on, there was no longer any cause 
of feud ; the slice of bread had disappeared, and lay scat- 
tered in crumbs like the grains of sand with which it was 
mingled. 

The sight had darkened the landscape for me, and dis- 
pelled the joyous calm in which my soul had lain bask- 
ing; I remained saddened for quite a long time, saying 
over and over to myself: "There is then a wonderful 
country in which bread is called cake, and is so rare 
a delicacy that it is enough in itself to give rise to a war 
literally fratricidal ! " 

VIII 

EVENING TWILIGHT 

The day is over. A great restfulness descends into 
poor minds that the day's work has wearied; and 



so POEMS IN PROSE 

thoughts take on the tender and dim colours of twilight. 

Nevertheless from the mountain peak there comes to 
my balcony, through the transparent clouds of evening, 
a great clamour, made up of a crowd of discordant cries, 
dulled by distance into a mournful harmony, like that 
of the rising tide or of a storm brewing. 

Who are the hapless ones to whom evening brings no 
calm; to whom, as to the owls, the coming of night is 
the signal for a witches' sabbat? The sinister ululation 
comes to me from the hospital on the mountain; and, 
in the evening, as I smoke, and look down on the quiet 
of the immense valley, bristling with houses, each of 
whose windows seems to say, "Here is peace, here is do- 
mestic happiness!" I can, when the wind blows from 
the heights, lull my astonished thought with this imita- 
tion of the harmonies of hell. 

Twilight excites madmen. I remember I had two 
friends whom twilight made quite ill. One of them lost 
all sense of social and friendly amenities, and flew at the 
first-comer like a savage. I have seen him throw at the 
waiter's head an excellent chicken, in which he imagined 
he had discovered some insulting hieroglyph. Evening, 
harbinger of profound delights, spoilt for him the most 
succulent things. 

The other, a prey to disappointed ambition, turned 
gradually, as the daylight dwindled, sourer, more gloomy, 
more nettlesome. Indulgent and sociable during the day, 
he was pitiless in the evening; and it was not only on 
others, but on himself, that he vented the rage of his 
twilight mania. 

The former died mad, unable to recognise his wife and 
child ; the latter still keeps the restlessness of a perpetual 
disquietude; and, if all the honours that republics and 
princes can confer were heaped upon him, I believe that 
the twilight would still quicken in him the burning envy 



POEMS IN PROSE $1 

of imaginary distinctions. Night, which put its own dark- 
ness into their minds, brings light to mine; and, though 
it is by no means rare for the same cause to bring about 
opposite results, I am always as it were perplexed and 
alarmed by it. 

O night! O refreshing dark! for me you are the sum- 
mons to an inner feast, you are the deliverer from an- 
guish! In the solitude of the plains, in the stony laby- 
rinths of a city, scintillation of stars, outburst of gas- 
lamps, you are the fireworks of the goddess Liberty! 

Twilight, how gentle you are a«id how tender! The 
rosy lights that still linger on the horizon, like the last 
agony of day under the conquering might of its night; 
the flaring candle-flames that stain with dull red the last 
glories of the sunset; the heavy draperies that an in- 
visible hand draws out of the depths of the East, mimic 
all those complex feelings that war on one another in 
the heart of man at the solemn moments of life. 

Would you not say that it was one of those strange 
costumes worn by dancers, in which the tempered splen- 
dours of a shining skirt show through a dark and trans- 
parent gauze, as, through the darkness of the present, 
pierces the delicious past? And the wavering stars of 
gold and silver with which it is shot, are they not those 
fires of fancy which take light never so well as under 
the deep mourning of the night? 

IX 

"ANYWHERE OUT OF THE WORLD" 

Life is a hospital, in which every patient is possessed 
by the desire of changing his bed. One would prefer to 
suffer near the fire, and another is certain that he would 
get well if he were by the window. 



52 POEMS IN PROSE 

It seems to me that I should always be happy if I 
were somewhere else, and this question of moving house 
is one that I am continually talking over with my soul. 

"Tell me, my soul, poor chilly soul, what do you say 
to living in Lisbon? It must be very warm there, and 
you would bask merrily, like a lizard. It is by the sea; 
they say that it is built of marble, and that the people 
have such a horror of vegetation that they tear up all the 
trees. There is a country after your own soul ; a country 
made up of light and mineral, and with liquid to reflect 
them." 

My soul makes no answer. 

"Since you love rest, and to see moving things, will 
you come and live in that heavenly land, Holland? Per- 
haps you would be happy in a country which you have 
so often admired in pictures. What do you say to Rot- 
terdam, you who love forests of masts, and ships an- 
chored at the doors of houses?" 

My soul remains silent. 

"Or perhaps Java seems to you more attractive? Well, 
there we shall find the mind of Europe married to tropi- 
C£il beauty." 

Not a word. Can my soul be dead? 

"Have you sunk then into so deep a stupor that only 
your own pain gives you pleasure? If that be so, let us 
go to the lands that are made in the likeness of Death. 
I know exactly the place for us, poor soul! We will 
book our passage to Torneo. We will go still further, 
to the last limits of the Baltic; and, if it be possible, 
further still from life; we will make our abode at the 
Pole. There the sun only grazes the earth, and the ^ow 
alternations of light and night put out variety and bring 
in the half of nothingness, monotony. There we can 
take great baths of darkness, while, from time to time, 



POEMS IN PROSE S3 

for our pleasure, the Aurora Boreal is shall scatter its rosy 
sheaves before us, like reflections of fireworks in hell ! " 

At last my soul bursts into speech, and wisely she 
cries to me: "Anywhere, anywhere, out of the world 1" 

X 

A HEROIC DEATH 

Fancioulle was an admirable buffoon, and almost one 
of the friends of the Prince. But for persons profes- 
sionally devoted to the comic, serious things have a fatal 
attraction, and, strange as it may seem that ideas of 
patriotism and liberty should seize despotically upon the 
brain of a player, one day Fancioulle joined in a con- 
spiracy formed by some discontented nobles. 

There exist everywhere sensible men to denounce those 
individuals of atrabiliar disposition who seek to depose 
princes, and, without consulting it, to reconstitute society. 
The lords in question were arrested, together with Fan- 
cioulle, and condemned to death. 

I would readily believe that the Prince was almost 
sorry to find his favourite actor among the rebels. The 
Prince was neither better nor worse than any other 
Prince; but an excessive sensibility rendered him, in 
many cases, more cruel and more despotic than all his 
fellows. Passionately enamoured of the fine arts, an ex- 
cellent connoisseur as well, he was truly insatiable of 
pleasures. Indifferent enough in regard to men and 
morals, himself a real artist, he feared no enemy but 
Ennui, and the extravagant efforts that he made 
to fly or to vanquish this tyrant of the world would 
certainly have brought upon him, on the part of 
a severe historian, the epithet of "monster," had it 
been permitted, in his dominions, to write anything what- 



54 POEMS IN PROSE 

ever which did not tend exclusively to pleasure, or to 
astonishment, which is one of the most delicate forms of 
pleasure. The great misfortune of the Prince was that 
he had no theatre vast enough for his genius. There are 
young Neros who are stifled within too narrow limits, 
and whose names and whose intentions will never be 
known to future ages. An unforeseeing Providence had 
given to this man faculties greater than his dominions. 

Suddenly the rumour spread that the sovereign had 
decided to pardon all the conspirators; and the origin 
of this rumour was the announcement of a special per- 
formance in which Faocioulle would play one of his best 
roles, and at which even the condemned nobles, it was 
said, were to be present, an evident sign, added super- 
ficial minds, of the generous tendencies of the Prince. 

On the part of a man so naturally and deliber- 
ately eccentric, anything was possible, even virtue, 
even mercy, especially if he could hope to find in 
it unexpected pleasures. But to those who, like 
myself, ^had* succeeded in penetrating further into 
the depths of this sick and curious soul, it was in- 
finitely more probable that the Prince was wishful to 
estimate the quality of the scenic talents of a man con- 
demned to death. He would profit by the occasion to 
obtain a physiological experience of a capital interest, 
and to verify to what extent the habitual faculties of an 
artist would be altered or modified by the extraordinary 
situation in which he found himself. Beyond this, did 
there exist in his mind an intention, more or less defined, 
of mercy? It is a point that has never been solved. 

At last, the great day having come, the little court 
displayed all its pomps, and it would be difficult to 
realise, without having seen it, what splendour the priv- 
ileged classes of a little state with limited resources can 
show forth, on a really solemn occasion. This was a 



POEMS IN PROSE 55 

doubly solemn one, both from the wonder of its display 
and from the mysterious moral interest attaching to it. 

The Sieur Fancioulle excelled especially in parts either 
silent or little burdened with words, such as are often 
the principal ones in those fairy plays whose object is 
to represent symbolically the mystery of life. He came 
upon the stage lightly and with a perfect ease, which in 
itself lent some support, in the minds of the noble public, 
to the idea of kindness and forgiveness. 

When we say of an actor, "This is a good actor," we 
make use of a formula which implies that under the per- 
sonage we can still distinguish the actor, that is to say, 
art, effort, will. Now, if an actor should succeed in be- 
ing, in relation to the personage whom he is appointed 
to express, precisely what the finest statues of antiquity, 
miraculously animated, living, walking, seeing, would be 
in relation to the confused general idea of beauty, this 
would be, undoubtedly, a singular and unheard of case. 
Fancioulle was, that evening, a perfect idealisation, 
which it was impossible not to suppose living, possible, 
real. The buffoon came and went, he laughed, wept, was 
convulsed with an indestructible aureole about his head, 
an aureole invisible to all, but visible to me, and in which 
were blended, in a strange amalgam, the rays of Art and 
the martyr's glory. Fancioulle brought, by I know not 
what special grace, something divine and supernatural 
into even the most extravagant buffooneries. My pen 
trembles, and the tears of an emotion which I' cannot 
forget rise to my eyes, as I try to describe to you this 
never-to-be-forgotten evening. Fancioulle proved to me, 
in a peremptory, an irrefutable way, that the intoxication 
of Art is surer than all others to veil the terrors of the 
gulf; that genius can act a comedy on the threshold of 
the grave with a joy that binders it from seeing the 



$6 POEMS IN PROSE 

grave, lost, as it is, in a Paradise shutting out all thought, 
of the grave and of destruction. 

The whole audience, blase and frivolous as it was, soon 
fell under the all-powerful sway of the artist. Not a 
thought was left of death, of mourning, or of punishment. 
All gave themselves up, without disquietude, to the mani- 
fold delights caused by the sight of a masterpiece of 
living art. Explosions of joy and admiration again and 
again shook the dome of the edifice with the energy of a 
continuous thunder. The Prince himself, in an ecstasy, 
joined in the applause of his court. 

Nevertheless, to a discerning eye, his emotion was not 
unmixed. Did he feel himself conquered in his power 
as despot? humiliated in his art as the striker of terror 
into hearts, of chill into souls? Such suppositions, not 
exactly justified, but not absolutely unjustifiable, passed 
through my mind as I contemplated the face of the 
Prince, on which a new pallor gradually overspread its 
habitual paleness, as snow overspreads snow. His lips 
compressed themselves tighter and tighter, and his eyes 
lighted up with an inner fire like that of jealousy or of 
spite, even while he applauded the talents of his old 
friend, the strange buffoon, who played the buffoon so 
well in the face of death. At a certain moment, I saw 
his Highness lean towards a little page, stationed behind 
him, and whisper in his ear. The roguish face of the 
pretty child lit up with a smile, and he briskly quitted 
the Prince's box as if to execute some urgent commis- 
sion. 

A few minutes later a shrill and prolonged hiss inter- 
rupted Fancioulle in one of his finest moments, and rent 
alike every ear and heart. And from the part of the 
house from whence this unexpected note of disapproval 
had sounded, a child darted into a corridor with stifled 
laughter. 



POEMS IN PROSE 57 

Fancioulle, shaken, roused out of his dream, closed his 
eyes, then re-opened them, almost at once, extraordi- 
narily wide, opened his mouth as if to breathe convul- 
sively, staggered a little forward, a little backward, and 
then fell stark dead on the boards. 

Had the hiss, swift as a sword, really frustrated the 
hangman? Had the Prince himself divined all the homi- 
cidal efficacy of his ruse? It is permitted to doubt it. 
Did he regret his dear and inimitable Fancioulle? It is 
sweet and legitimate to believe it. 

The guilty nobles had enjoyed the performance of 
comedy for the last time. They were effaced from life. 

Since then, many mimes, justly appreciated in differ- 
ent countries, have played before the court of ; but 

none of them have ever been able to recall the marvellous 
talents of Fancioulle, or to rise to the same javotar, 

XI 

BE DRUNKEN 

Be always drunken. Nothing else matters: that is the 
only question. If you would not feel the horrible burden 
of Time weighing on your shoulders and crushing you to 
the earth, be drunken continually. 

Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry, or with 
virtue, as you will. But be drunken. 

And i£ sometimes, on the stairs of a palace, or on the 
green side of a ditch, or in the dreary solitude of your 
own room, you should awaken and the drunkenness be 
half or wholly slipped away from you, ask of the wind, 
or of the wave, or of the star, or of the bird, or of the 
clock, of whatever flies, or sighs, or rocks, or sings, or 
speaks, ask what hour it is; and the wind, wave, star, 
bird, clock, will answer you: "It is the hour to be 



S8 POEMS IN PROSE 

drunken! Be drunken, if you would not be martyred 
slaves of Time; be drunken continually! With wine, 
with poetry, or with virtue, as you will." 



XII 

EPILOGUE 

With heart at rest I climbed the citadel's 
Steep height, and saw the city as from a tower. 
Hospital, brothel, prison, and such hells. 



Where evil comes up softly like a flower. 
Thou knowest, O Satan, patron of my pain, 
Not for vain tears I went up at that hour; 



But, like an old sad faithful lecher, fain 
To drink delight of that enormous trull 
Whose hellish beauty makes me young again. 



Whether thou sleep, with heavy vapours full. 
Sodden with day, or, new apparelled, stand 
In gold-laced veils of evening beautiful, 



I love thee, infamous city! Harlots and 
Hunted have pleasures of their own to give. 
The vulgar herd can never understand. 



POEMS IN PROSE 
Translated by Joseph T. Shipley 



DEDICATION 

To 

ARSENE HOUSSAYE 

My dear Friend: 

I send you a little work of v/hich it cannot be said, 
without injustice, that it has neither head nor tail ; since 
all of it, on the contrary, is at once head and tail, alter- 
nately and reciprocally. Consider, I pray you, what con- 
venience this arrangement offers to all of us, to you, to 
me and to the reader. We can stop where we wish, I my 
musing, you your consideration, and the reader his pe- 
rusal — for I do not hold the latter's restive will by the 
interminable thread of a fine-spun intrigue. Remove a 
vertebra, and the two parts of this tortuous fantasy re- 
join painlessly. Chop it into particles, and you will 
see that each part can exist by itself. In the hope that 
some of these segments will be lively enough to please 
and to amuse you, I venture to dedicate to you the entire 
serpent." 

I have a little confession to make. It was while glanc- 
ing, for at least the twentieth time, through the famous 
Gaspard de la Nuit, by Aloysius Bertrand (a book 
kndwn to you, to me, and to a few of our friends, has it 
not the highest right to be called famous?), that the 
idea came to me to attempt an analogous plan, and to 
apply to the description of modern life, or rather of a 
life modern and more abstract, the process which he ap- 
plied in the depicting of ancient life, so strangely pic- 
turesque. 

Which of us has not, in his moments of ambition, 
6i 



62 POEMS IN PROSE 

dreamed the miracle of a poetic prose, musical without 
rhythm or rime, sufficiently supple, sufficiently abrupt, to 
adapt itself to the lyrical movements of the soul, to the 
windings and turnings of the fancy, to the sudden starts 
of the conscience? 

It is particularly in ifrequenting great cities, it is from 
the flux of their innumerable streams of intercourse, that 
this importunate ideal is born. Have not you yourself, 
my dear friend, tried to convey in a chanson the strident 
cry of the glazier, and to express in a lyric prose all the 
grievous suggestions that cry bears even to the house- 
tops, through the heaviest mists of the street? 

But, to speak truth, I fear that my jealousy has not 
brought me good fortune. As soon as I had begun the 
work, I saw that not only was I laboring far, far, from 
my mysterious and brilliant model, but that I was reach- 
ing an accomplishment (if it can be called an accomplish- 
ment) peculiarly different — accident of which all others 
would doubtless be proud, but which can but profoundly 
humiliate a mind which considers it the highest honor 
of the poet to achieve exactly what he has planned. 
Devotedly yours, 

C. B. 



A JESTER 

It was the outburst of the New Year: chaos of mud 
and snow, crossed by a thousand coaches, sparkling with 
baubles and gewgaws, swarming with desires and with 
despairs, official folly of a great city made to weaken 
the fortitude of the firmest eremite. 

In the midst of this hubbub and tumult, a donkey was 
trotting along, tormented by a lout with a horsewhip. 

As the donkey was about to turn a corner, a fine fellow, 
gloved, polished, with a merciless cravat, and impris- 
oned in impeccable garments, bowed ceremoniously be- 
fore the beast; said to it, removing his hat: "I greet 
thee, good and happy one"; and turned towards some 
companions with a fatuous air, as though requesting 
them to add their approbation to his content. 

The donkey did not see the clever jester, and con- 
tinued steadily where its duty called. 

As for me, I was overcome by an inordinate rage 
against the sublime idiot, who seemed to me to concen- 
trate in himself the wit of France. 

THE DOG AND THE VIAL 

"My pretty dog, my good dog, my doggy dear, come 
and smell this excellent perfume bought at the best scent- 
shop in the city." 

And the dog, wagging its tail, which is, I think, the 
poor creature's substitute for a laugh or a smile, ap- 

63 



64 POEMS IN PROSE 

preached and curiously placed its damp nose to the 
opened vial ; then, recoiling with sudden fright, it growled 
at me in reproach. 

"Ah! wretched dog, if I had offered you a mass of ex- 
crement, you would have smelled it with delight, and 
probably have devoured it. So even you, unworthy com- 
panion of my unhappy life, resemble the public, to whom 
one must never offer delicate perfumes, which exasperate, 
but carefully raked-up mire." 

THE WILD WOMAN AND THE COQUETTE 

"Really, my dear, you tire me immeasurably and un- 
pityingly ; one would say, to hear you sigh, that you suf- 
fered more than the sexagenarian gleaners or the old beg- 
gar hags who pick up crusts at the doors of restaurants. 

"If at least your sighs expressed remorse, they would 
do you some honor; but they convey merely the surfeit 
of well-being and the languor of repose. And, too, you 
will not stop your constant flow of needless words: 'Love 
me well! I have so much need! Comfort me thus, caress 
me so!' 

"Come! I shall try to cure you; perhaps we shall find 
a means, for two cents, in the midst of a fair, not far 
away. 

"Take a good look, I pray you, at this strong iron 
cage, within which moves, howling like a damned soul, 
shaking the bars like an ourang-outang enraged by exile, 
imitating to perfection, now the circular bounds of the 
tiger, now the clumsy waddling of the polar bear, that 
hairy monster whose form vaguely resembles your own. 

"That monster is one of those beasts one usually calls 
*my angel' — that is, a woman. The other monster, he 
who bawls at the top of his voice, club in his hand, is a 
husband. He has chained his lawful wife like a beast, 



POEMS IN PROSE 65 

and he exhibits her in the suburbs on fair days — with the 
magistrates' permission, of course. 

"Pay close attention. See with what voracity (per- 
haps not feigned) she tears apart the living rabbits and 
the cackling fowl her keeper throws her. 'Come,' he says, 
'one must not eat one's whole store in a day'; and, with 
that wise word, he cruelly snatches the prey, the winding 
entrails of which remain a moment caught on the teeth 
of the ferocious beast — I mean, the woman. 

"Come! A good blow to calm her! for she darts ter- 
rible glances of lust at the stolen food. Good God! The 
club is not a jester's slap stick! Did you hear the flesh 
resound, right through the artificial hair? Her eyes leap 
from her head now; she howls more naturally. In her 
rage she sparkles all over, like smitten iron. 

"Such are the conjugal customs of these two children 
of Adam and Eve, these works of Thy hands, O my 
God! This woman is doubtless miserable, though after 
all, perhaps, the titillating joys of glory are not unknown 
to her. There are misfortunes less remediable, and with 
no compensation. But in the world to which she has 
been thrown, she has never been able to think that 
woman might deserve a different destiny. 

"Now, as for us two, my fine lady! Seeing the hells 
of which the world is made, what would you have me 
think of your pretty hell, you who rest only on stuffs 
as soft as your own skin, who eat only cooked viands, 
for whom a skilled domestic takes care to cut the bites?, 

"And what can mean to me all these soft signs which 
heave your perfumed breast, my lusty coquette? And 
all those affectations learned from books, and that ever- 
lasting melancholy, intended to arouse an emotion far 
other than pity? Indeed, I sometimes feel like teaching 
you what true misfortune means. 

"Seeing you so, my beautiful dainty one, your feet in 



66 POEMS IN PROSE 

the mire and your moist eyes turned to the sky, as though 
to demand a king, one would say indeed: a young frog 
invoking the ideal. If you scorn the log (which I am 
now, you know), beware the stork which will kill, swal- 
low, devour you at its caprice. 

"Poet as I am, I am not such a fool as you may think, 
and if you tire me too often with your whining affecta- 
tions, I shall treat you as a wild woman, or throw you 
through the window as an empty flask." 

THE OLD MOUNTEBANK 

Everywhere the holiday crowd was parading, spread 
out, merry making. It was one of those festivals on 
which mountebanks, tricksters, animal trainers and itin- 
erant merchants had long been relying, to compensate 
for the dull seasons of the year. 

On such days it seems to me the people forget all, sad- 
ness and work; they become children. For the little 
ones, it is a day of leave, the horror of the school put off 
twenty-four hours. For the grown-ups, it is an armistice, 
concluded with the malevolent forces of life, a respite in 
the universal contention and struggle. 

The man of the world himself, and even he who is oc- 
cupied with spiritual tasks, with difficulty escape the in- 
fluence of this popular jubilee. They absorb, without 
volition, their part of the atmosphere of devil-may-care. 
As for me, I never fail, like a true Parisian, to inspect 
all the booths that flaunt themselves in these solemn 
epochae. 

They made, in truth, a formidable gathering: they 
bawled, bellowed, howlfed. It was a mingling of cries, 
of blaring of brass and bursting of rockets. The clowns 
and the simpletons convulsed the features of their 
swarthy faces, hardened by wind, rain, and sun; they 



POEMS IN PROSE 67 

hurled forth, with the assurance of comedians certain of 
their wares, witticisms and pleasantries of a humor solid 
and heavy as that of Moliere. The Hercules, proud of 
the enormousness of their limbs, without forehead, with- 
out cranium, stalked majestically about under fleshings 
fresh washed for the occasion. The dancers, pretty as 
fairies or as princesses, leapt and cavorted under the 
flare of lanterns which filled their skirts with sparkles. 

All was light, dust, shouting, joy, tumult; some spent, 
others gained, the one and the other equally joyful. Chil- 
dren clung to their mothers' skirts to obtain a sugar-stick, 
or climbed upon their fathers' shoulders the better to see 
a conjurer dazzling as a god. And spread over all, domi- 
nating every odor, was a smell of frying, which was the 
incense of the festival. 

At the end, at the extreme end of the row of booths, 
as if, ashamed, he had exiled himself from all these splen- 
dors, I saw an old mountebank, stooped, decrepit, ema- 
ciated, a ruin of a man, leaning against one of the pil- 
lars of his hut, more wretched than that of the most 
besotted barbarian, the distress of which two candle 
ends, guttering and smoking, lighted up only too well. 

Everywhere was joy, gain, revelry; everywhere cer- 
tainty of the morrow's bread; everywhere the frenetic 
outbursts of vitality. Here, absolute misery, misery be- 
decked, to crown the horror, in comic tatters, where ne- 
cessity, rather than art, produced the contrast. He was 
not laughing, the wretched one! He was not weeping, 
he was not dancfng, he was not gesticulating, he was not 
crying. He was singing no song, gay or grievous, he 
was imploring no one. He was mute and immobile. He 
had renounced, he had withdrawn. His destiny was ac- 
complished. 

But what a deep, unforgettable look he cast over the 
crowd and the li^ts, the moving stream of which was 



68 POEMS IN PROSE 

stemmed a few yards from his repulsive wretchedness! 
I felt my throat clutched by the terrible hand of hys- 
teria, and it seemed as though glajices were clouded by 
rebellious tears that would not fall. 

What was to be done? What good was there in asking 
the unfortunate what curiosity, what marvel had he to 
show within those barefaced shades, behind that thread- 
bare curtain? In truth, I dar»;d not; and, although the 
reason for my timidity will make you laugh, I confess 
that I was afraid of humiliating him. At length, I had 
resolved to drop a coin while passing his boards, in the 
hope that he would divine my purpose, when a great 
backwash of people, produced by I know not what dis- 
turbance, carried me far away. 

And leaving, obsessed by the sight, I sought to analyze 
my sudden sadness, and I said: "I have just seen the 
image of the aged man of letters, who has survived the 
generation of which he was the brilliant entertainer; of 
the old poet, friendless, without family, without child, 
degraded by his misery and by public ingratitude, into 
whose booUi a forgetful world no longer wants to go!" 

THE CLOCK 

The Chinese tell the time in the eyes of cats. One 
day a missionary, walking in the suburbs of Nanking, 
noticed that he had forgotten his watch, and asked a little 
boy what time it was. 

The youngster of the heavenly Empire hesitated at 
first; then, carried away by his thought he answered: 
"I'll tell you." A few moments later he reappeared, 
bearing in his arms an immense cat, and looking, as they 
say, into the whites of its eyes, he announced without 
hesitation: "It's not quite noon." Which was the fact. 

As for me, if I turn toward the fair feline, to her so 



POEMS IN PROSE 69 

aptl)'^ named, who is at once the honor of her sex, the 
pride of my heart and the fragrance of my mind, be it 
by night or by day, in the full light or in the opaque 
shadows, in the depths of her adorable eyes I always tell 
the time distinctly, always the same, a vast, a solemn 
hour, large as space, without division of minutes or of 
seconds, — an immovable hour which is not marked on 
the clocks, yet is slight as a sigh, is rapid as the lift- 
ing of a lash. 

And if some intruder comes to disturb me while my 
glance rests upon that charming dial, if some rude and 
intolerant genie, some demon of the evil hour, comes to 
ask: "What are you looking at so carefully? What are 
you hunting for in the eyes of that being? Do you see 
the time there, mortal squanderer and do-nothing?" I 
shall answer, unhesitant: "Yes, I see the time, it is Eter- 
nity!" 

Is not this, madame, a really worth-while madrigal, 
just as affected as yourself? Indeed, I have had so much 
pleasure in embroidering this pretentious gallantry, that 
I shall ask you for nothing in exchange. 

A HEMISPHERE IN A TRESS 

Let me breathe, long, long, of the odor of your hair, 
let me plunge my whole face in its depth, as a thirsty 
man in the waters of a spring, let me flutter it with my 
hand as a perfumed kerchief, to shake off memories into 
the air. 

If you could know all that I see! all that I feel! all 
that I understand in your hair! My soul journeys on 
perfumes as the souls of other men on music. 

Your hair meshes a full dream, crowded with sails and 
masts; it holds great seas on which monsoons bear me 
toward charming climes, where the skies are bluer and 



70 POEMS IN PROSE 

deeper, where the atmosphere is perfumed with fruits, 
with leaves, and with the human skin. 

In the ocean of your hair I behold a port humming 
with melancholy chants, with strong men of all nations 
and with ships of ^ery form carving their delicate, intri- 
cate architecture on an enormous sky where lolls eter- 
nal heat. 

In the caresses of your hair, I find again the languor 
of long hours on a divan, in the cabin of a goodly ship, 
cradled by the unnoticed undulation of the port, between 
pots of flowers and refreshing water-jugs. 

At the glowing hearth-stone of your hair, I breathe the 
odor of tobacco mixed with opium and sugar; in the 
night of your hair, I see shine forth the infinite of the 
tropic sky; on the downy bank-sides of your hair, I 
grow drunk with the mingled odors of tar and musk, 
and oil of cocoanut. 

Let me bite, long, your thick black hair. When I 
nibble your springy, rebellious hair, it seems that I am 
eating memories. 

THE PLAYTHING OF THE POOR 

I SHOULD like to give you an idea for an innocent 
diversion. There are so few amusements that are not 
guilty ones! 

When you go out in the morning for a stroll along the 
highways, fill your pockets with little penny contriv- 
ances — such as the straight merryandrew moved by a 
single thread, the blacksmiths who strike the anvil, the 
rider and his horse, with a whistle for a tail — and, along 
the taverns, at the foot of the trees, make presents of 
them to the unknown poor children whom you meet. 
You will see their eyes grow beyond all measure. At 
first, they will not dare to take; they will doubt their 



POEMS IN PROSE 71 

good fortune. Then their hands will eagerly seize the 
gift, and they will flee as do the cats who go far off 
to eat the bit you have given them, having learned 
to distrust man. ^ 

On a road, behind the rail of a great garden at the foot 
of which appeared the glitter of a beautiful mansion 
struck by the sun, stood a pretty, fresh child, clad in 
those country garments' so full of affectation. 

Luxury, freedom from care, and the habitual spectacle 
of wealth, make these children so pretty that one would 
think them formed of other paste than the sons of me- 
diocrity or of poverty. 

Beside him on the grass lay a splendid toy, fresh as 
its master, varnished, gilt, clad in a purple robe, cov- 
ered with plumes and beads of glass. But the child was 
not occupied with his favored plaything, and this is 
what he was watching: 

On the other side of the rail, on the road, among the 
thistles and the thorns, was another child, puny, dirty, 
fuliginous, one of those pariah-brats the beauty of which 
an impartial eye might discover if, as the eye of the con- 
noisseur divines an ideal painting beneath the varnish of 
the coach-maker, it cleansed him of the repugnant patina 
of misery. 

Across the symbolic bars which separate two worlds, 
the highway and the mansion, the poor child was showing 
the rich child his own toy, which the latter examined 
eagerly, as a rare and unknown object. Now, this toy, 
which the ragamuffin was provoking, tormenting, tossing 
in a grilled box, was a live rat! His parents, doubtless for 
economy, had taken the toy from life itself. 

And the two children were laughing together frater- 
nally, with teeth of equal whiteness t 



72 POEMS IN PROSE 



THE GIFTS OF THE FAIRIES 

It was that great assembly of the fairies, to proceed 
with the repartition of gifts among the new-born who 
had arrived at life within the last twenty-four hours. 

All these antique and capricious sisters of destiny, all 
these bizarre mothers of sadness and of joy, were most 
diversified : some had a somber, crabbed air ; others were 
wanton, mischievous; some, young, who had always been 
young; others old, who had always been old. 

All the fathers who believed in fairies had come, each 
bearing his new-bom in his arms. 

Gifts, Faculties, Good Fortunes, Invincible Circum- 
stances, were gathered at the side of the tribunal, as 
prizes on the platform for distribution. What was pe- 
culiar here was that the gifts were not the reward of an 
effort, but, quite the contrary, a grace accorded him 
who had not yet lived, a grace with power to determine 
his destiny and become as well the source of his misfor- 
tune as of his good. 

The poor fairies were kept very busy; for the crowd 
of solicitors was great, and the intermediate world, placed 
between man and God, is subject, like man, to the ter- 
rible law of Time and his endless offspring, Days, Hours, 
Minutes, Seconds. 

In truth, they were as bewildered as ministers on an 
audience day, or as guards at the Mont-de-Piete when 
a national holiday authorizes gratuitous liberations. I 
really think that from time to time they looked at the 
hands of the clock with as much impatience as human 
judges, who, sitting since morn, cannot'help dreaming of 
dinner, of the family, and of their cherished slippers. 
If, in supernatural justice, there is a little of haste and 



POEMS IN PROSE 73 

of luck, we should not be surprised sometimes to find 
the same in human justice. We ourselves, in that case, 
would be unjust judges. 

So some shams were enacted that day which might 
be thought bizarre, if prudence, rather than caprice, 
were the distinctive, eternal characteristic of the fairies. 

For instance, the power of magnetically attracting for- 
tune was awarded the sole heir of a very wealthy fam- 
ily, who, endowed with no feeling of charity, no more 
than with lust for the most visible goods of life, must 
later on find himself prodigiously embarrassed by his 
millions. 

Thus, love of the beautiful and poetic power were 
given to the son of a gloomy knave, a quarry-man by 
trade, who could in no way develop the faculties or sat- 
isfy the needs of his deplorable offspring. 

All the fairies rose, thinking their task was through; 
for there remained no gift, no bounty, to hurl at all that 
human fry, when one fine fellow, a poor little trades- 
man, I think, rose, and grasping by her robe of multi- 
colored vapors the Fairy nearest at hand, cried: 

"Oh, Madam! You are forgetting us! There is still 
my little one! I don't want to have come for nothing!" 

The fairy could have been embarrassed, for there no 
longer was a thing. However, she recalled in time a 
law, well known, though rarely applied, in the super- 
natural world, inhabited by those impalpable deities, 
friends, of man and often constrained to mold them- 
selves to his passions, such as Fairies, Gnomes, Sala- 
manders, Sylphides, Sylphs, Nixies, Watersprites and Un- 
dines — I mean the law which grants a Fairy, in a case 
similar to this, namely, in case of the exhausting of the 
prizes, power to give one more, supplementary and ex- 
ceptional, provided always that she has sufficient imagi- 
nation to create it at once. 



74 POEMS IN PROSE 

Accordingly the good Fairy responded, with self-pos- 
session worthy of her rank: ''I give to your son . . . 
I give him . . . the gift of pleasing/" 

"Pleasing? How? Pleasing? Why?" obstinately asked 
the little shopkeeper, who was doubtless one of those 
logicians so commonly met, incapable of rising to the 
logic of the Absurd. 

"Because! Because!" replied the incensed Fairy, turn- 
ing her back on him; and, rejoining the train of her 
companions, she said to them: "What do you think of 
this little vainglorious Frenchman, who wants to know 
everything, and who, having secured for his son the best 
of gifts, dares still to question and to dispute the indis- 
putable?" 

SOLITUDE 

A PHILANTHROPIC joumalist once said to me that soli- 
tude is harmful to man, and, to support his thesis, he 
cited — as do all unbelievers — words of the Christian 
Fathers. 

I know that the Demon gladly frequents parched 
places, and that the spirit of murder and lechery is mar- 
vellously inflamed in solitude. But it is possible that 
solitude is dangerous only to the idle, rambhng soul, who 
peoples it with his passions and his chimeras. 

It is certain that a babbler, whose supreme pleasure 
consists in speaking from a pulpit or a rostrum, would 
be talcing great chances of going stark mad on the is- 
land of Crusoe. I do not demand of my journalist the 
courageous virtues of Robinson, but I ask that he do not 
summon in accusation lovers of solitude and mystery. 

There are in our chattering races individuals who 
would accept the supreme agony with less reluctance, if 
they were permitted to deliver a copious harangue from 



POEMS IN PROSE 75 

the height of the scaffold, without fear that the drums of 
Santerre* would unseasonably cut short their oration. 

I do not pity them, for I guess that their oratorical ef- 
fusions bring them delights equal to those which others 
draw from silence and seclusion; but I despise them. 

I desire above all that my accursed journalist leave 
me to amuse myself as I will. "Then you never feel," 
he says in a very apostolic nasal tone, "the need of shar- 
ing your joys?" Do you see the subtle jealous one! He 
knows that I scorn his, and he comes to insinuate himself 
into mine, the horrible killjoy! 

"The great misfortune of not being able to be alone," 
La Bruyere says somewhere, as though to shame those 
who rush to forget themselves in the crowd, fearing, 
doubtless, that they will be unable to endure themselves. 

"Almost all our ills come to us from inability to remain 
in our room," said another sage, Pascal, I believe, recall- 
ing thus in the cell of meditation the frantic ones who 
seek happiness in animation, and in a prostitution which 
I could call fratemary, if I wished to use the fine lan- 
guage of mjj century. 

PROJECTS 

He said to himself, while strolling in the great lonely 
park: "How beautiful she would be in an intricate, gor- 
geous court costume, descending, through the air of a 
beauteous evening, the marble stairs of a palace, oppo- 
site shallow pools and great greenswards. For she has 
naturally the air of a princess." 

Passing along a street somewhat later, he stopped be- 
fore a print-shop, and finding in a portfolio an engrav- 
ing of a tropical scene, he said: "No, it is not in a palace 

* Santerre is the general of the French Revolution who or- 
dered his drummers to play, drowning the words of Louis 
XVI from the scaffold. 



76 POEMS IN PROSE 

that I should like to be master of her beloved life. We 
would not feel at home. Besides, walls riddled with 
gold would afford no niche to hold her likeness; in those 
solemn galleries there is no intimate comer. Decidedly 
it is there I must live to develop the dream of my Iffe." 

And, analyzing the details of the engraving, he con- 
tinued mentally: ''At the edge of the sea, a little log cabin, 
surrounded by those shiny, bizarre trees, the names of 
which I have forgotten ... in the air, an indefinable, 
intoxicating perfume ... in the cabin, a potent fra- 
grance of rose and of musk . . . farther off, behind 
our little domain, mast-tops swaying with the swell 
around us, beyond the room lighted by a roseate glow 
sifted through the blinds, adorned with fresh matting 
and intoxicating flowers, with rare benches of Portuguese 
rococo, of a heavy and shadowy wood (where she will 
rest, so calm, so gently fanned, smoking tobacco tinged 
with opium), beyond the timbers of the ships, the racket 
of the birds drunk with the light, and the chattering of 
little negresses . . . and, at night, to serve as accom- 
paniment to my musings, the plaintive song of musical 
trees, of melancholy beef -woods! Yes, in truth, there 
indeed is the setting that I seek. What have I to do 
with palaces? 

And still farther, as he followed a great avenue, he 
noticed a well-kept tavern, from a window of which, 
enlivened by curtains of checkered prints, two laughing 
heads leaned forth. And at once: "My fancy," he said, 
"must be a great vagabond to seek so far what is so 
near to me. Pleasure and good fortune are in the near- 
est tavern, in the chance tavern, so rich in happiness. A 
great fire, gaudy earthenware, a tolerable meal, rough 
wine, and an enormous bed with cloths somewhat coarse, 
but fresh; what more could be desired?" 

And returning home, alone, at the hour when the coun- 



POEMS IN PROSE 77 

sels of Wisdom are not drowned by the hum of external 
life, he said: "I have had to-day, in my revery, three 
dwellings in which I have found equal pleasure. Why 
constrain my body to move about, when my soul voy- 
ages so freely? And to what end carry out projects, 
when the project itself is a sufficing joy?" 

THE LOVELY DOROTHEA 

The sun pours down upoo the city with its direct and 
terrible light; the sand is dazzling, and the sea glistens. 
The stupefied world sinks cowardly down and holds si- 
esta, a siesta which is a sort of delightful death, in which 
the sleeper, half-awake, enjoys the voluptuousness of his 
annihilation. 

None the less, Dorothea, strong and proud as the sun, 
advances along the deserted street, alone animated at 
that hour, under the immense blue sky, forming a star- 
tling black spot against the light. 

She advances, lightly, balancing her slender trunk upon 
her so large hips. Her close-fitting silk dress, of a clear, 
roseate fashion, stands out vividly against the darkness 
of her skin and is exactly molded to her long figure, her 
rounded back and her pointed throat. 

Her red parasol, sifting the light, throws over her 
dark face the bloody disguise of its reflection. 

The weight of her enormous, blue-black hair draws 
back her delicate head and gives her a triumphant, indo- 
lent bearing. Heavy pendants tinkle quietly at her deli- 
cate ears. 

From time to time the sea-breeze lifts the hem of her 
flowing' skirt and reveals her shining, superb limbs; and 
her foot, a match for the feet of the marble goddesses 
whom Europe locks in its museums, faithfully imprints 
its form in the fine sand. For Dorothea is such a won- 



78 POEMS IN PROSE 

drous coquette, that the pleasure of being admired over- 
comes the pride of the enfranchised, and, although she 
is free, she walks without shoes. 

She advances thus, harmoniously, glad to be alive, 
smiling an open smile; as if she saw, far off in space, a 
mirroi. reflecting her walk and her beauty. 

At the hour when dogs moan with pain under the tor- 
menting sun, what powerful motive can thus draw forth 
the indolent Dorothea, lovely, and cold as bronze? 

Why had she left her little cabin, so coquettishly 
adorned, the flowers and mats of which make at so little 
cost a perfect boudoir; where she takes such .delight in 
combing herself, in smoking, in being fanned, or in re- 
garding herself in the mirror with its great fans of 
plumes ; while the sea, which strikes the shore a hundred 
steps away, shapes to her formless reveries a mighty and 
monotonous accompaniment, and while the iron pot, in 
which a ragout of crabs with saffron and rice is cook- 
ing, sends after her, from the courtyard, its stimulating 
perfumes? 

Perhaps she has a rendezvous with some young officer, 
who, on far distant shores, heard his comrades talk of the 
renowned Dorothea. Infallibly she will beg him, simple 
creature, to describe to her the Bal de I'Opera, and will 
ask him if one can go there barefoot, as to the Sunday 
dances, where the old Kaffir women themselves get drunk 
and mad with joy; and then, too, whether the lovely 
ladies of Paris are all lovelier than she. 

Dorothea is admired and pampered by all, and she 
would be perfectly happy if she were not obliged to 
amass piastre on piastre to buy back her little sister, 
who is now fully eleven, and who is already mature, and 
so lovely! She will doubtless succeed, the good Doro- 
thea; the child's master is so miserly, too miserly to 
understand another beauty than that of gold. 



POEMS IN PROSE 79 



THE COUNTERFEIT MONEY 

As we were moving away from the tobacconist's, my 
companion carefully sorted his money: in the left pocket 
of his waistcoat he slipped little gold pieces ; in the right, 
little silver pieces; in the left pocket of his trousers, a 
mass of coppers, and finally, in the right, a silver two- 
franc pieces that he had particularly examined. 

"Singular and minute distribution!" I said to myself. 

We came across a pauper who, trembling, held forth 
his cap, — I know nothing more disquieting than the 
dumb eloquence of those suppliant eyes which hold, for 
the sensitive man who can read within, both so great 
humility and so deep reproach. Something lies there 
which approaches that depth of complex feeling in the 
tearful eyes of dogs that are being flogged. 

The offering of my friend was much more considerable 
than mine, and I said to him: "You are right; after the 
pleasure of being astonished, none is greater than that 
of creating a surprise." — "It was the counterfeit," he 
answered tranquilly, as though to justify his prodigality. 

But in my miserable brain, always busied seeking 
noon at two p.m. (of such a wearying faculty has nature 
made me a gift!), the idea suddenly came that such 
conduct, on the part of my friend, was excusable only 
by the desire to produce an occasion in the life of the 
poor devil, perhaps even to know the diverse conse- 
quences, disastrous or otherwise, that a counterfeit in 
the hands of a mendicant can engender. Could it not 
multiply itself in valid pieces? Could it not also lead 
him, to jail? A tavern-keeper, a baker, for example, 
might perhaps have him arrested as a forger or a spreader 
of counterfeits. Quite as well the counterfeit coin might 



8o POEMS IN PROSE 

be, for a poor little speculator, the germ of a several 
days' wealth. And so my fancy ran its course, lending 
wings to the spirit of my friend and drawing all pos- 
sible deductions from all imaginable hypotheses. 

But he abruptly burst my revery asunder by taking 
up my own words: "Yes, you are right: there is no 
sweeter pleasure than to surprise a man by giving him 
more than he expected." 

I looked into the whites of his eyes, and I was fright- 
ened to see that his eyes shone with an undeniable can- 
dor. I then saw clearly that he wished to combine char- 
ity and a good stroke of business; to gain forty sous and 
the heart of God; to sweep into Paradise economically; 
in short, to entrap gratis the brevet of charitable man. 

I would almost have pardoned in him the desire of the 
criminal joy of which I had just now thought him ca- 
pable! I would have thought it curious, singular, that 
he found«it amusing to compromise the poor; but I shall 
never pardon the ineptitude of his calculation. One is 
never to be forgiven for being wicked, but there is some 
merit in being conscious that one is; — the most irrepar- 
able of all evils is to do wrong through stupidity. 



THE GENEROUS PLAYER 

Yesterday, in the crowd of the boulevard, I felt my- 
self grazed by a mysterious Being whom I have always 
wished to know, and whom I recognized at once, though 
I had never seen him. He doubtless had a similar wish 
to make my acquaintance, for he gave me a significant 
wink in passing which I hastened to obey. I followed 
him attentively, and soon I descended behind him into 
a resplendent subterranean abode, where sparkled a lux- 
ury that none of the better homes in Paris can nearly 



POEMS IN PROSE 8i 

approach. It seemed odd to me that I could have passed 
by this enchanting den so often without divining the en- 
trance. There reigned an exquisite, though heady atmos- 
phere, which made one forget ahnost at once all the fas- 
tidious horrors of life; there one breathed a somber 
blessedness, similar to that which the lotus-eaters experi- 
enced when, disembarking on an enchanted isle, bright 
with the glimmerings of eternal afternoon, they felt 
growing within them, to the drowsy sound of melodious 
cascades, the desire never to see again their hearthstones, 
their wives, their children, and never to remount the 
high surges of the sea. 

Strange visages of men and women were there, marked 
with a fatal beauty, which it seemed to me I had already 
seen in epochs and in lands I could not precisely recall, 
and which inspired me rather with a fraternal sympathy 
than with that fear which is usually born at sight of the 
unknown. If I wished to try to define in any way the 
singular expression of these visages, I should say that I 
had never seen eyes burning more feverishly with dread 
of ennui and with the immortal desire of feeling them- 
selves alive. 

My host and I were already, when we sat down, old 
and perfect friends. We ate, we drank beyond measure 
of all sorts of extraordinary wines, and — what was no 
less extraordinary — it seemed to me, after several hours, 
that I was no more drunken than he. Play, that super- 
human pleasure, had meanwhile irregularly interrupted 
our frequent libations, and I must say that I staked and 
lost my soul, at the rubber, with heroic heedlessness and 
lightness. The soul is so impalpable a thing, so often 
useless and sometimes so annoying, that I experienced, 
at its loss, a little less emotion than if, on a walk, I had 
misplaced my visiting card. For a long time we smoked 
some cigars the incomparable savor and perfume of 



82 POEMS IN PROSE 

v/hich gave the soul nostalgia for unknown lands and 
joys, and, intoxicated with all these delights, I dared, 
in an access of familiarity which seemed not to displease 
him, to cry, while mastering a cup full to the brim: "To 
your immortal health, old Buck!" 

We talked, also, of the universe, of its creation 
and of its future destruction; of the great idea of 
the century, namely, progress and perfectibility; and, 
in general, of all forms of human infatuation. On this 
subject, His Highness never exhausted his fund of light 
and irrefutable pleasantries, and he expressed himself 
with an easy flow of speech and a quietness in his droll- 
ery that I have found in none of the most celebrated 
causeurs of humanity. He explained to me the absurd- 
ity of the different philosophies which have hitherto 
taken possession of the human brain, and deigned even to 
confide to me certain fundamental principles, the prop- 
erty and the benefits of which it does not suit me to 
share with the casual comer. He did not in any way be- 
moan the bad reputation which he enjoys in all parts 
of the world, assured me that he himself was the person 
most interested in the destruction of superstition, and 
confessed that he had never feared for his own power 
save once, on the day when he had heard a preacher, 
more subtle than his colleagues, cry from the pulpit: 
"My dear brethren, never forget, when you hear the 
progress of wisdom vaunted, that the cleverest ruse of 
the Devil is to persuade you he does not exist!" 

The memory of this celebrated orator led us naturally 
to the subject of the academies, and my strange com- 
panion stated that he did not disdain, in many cases, to 
inspire the pen, the word, and the conscience of pedagogs, 
and that he was almost always present, though invisible, 
at the academic sessions. 

Encouraged by so many kindnesses, I asked him for 



POEMS IN PROSE 85 

news of God, and whether he had recently seen Him. 
He answered, with a carelessness shaded with a certain 
sadness: ''We greet one another when we meet, but as 
two old gentlemen, in whom an innate politeness can- 
not extinguish the memory of ancient bitterness." 

It is doubtful that His Highness had ever granted so 
long an audience to a plain mortal, and I was afraid 
of abusing it. Finally, as the shivering dawn whitened 
the panes, this famous personage, sung by so many poets 
and served by so many philosophers who have worked 
unknowingly for his glory, said to me: "I want to leave 
you with a pleasant memory of me, and to prove that I, 
of whom so much ill is said, I can sometimes be a good 
devil, to make use of one of your common phrases. In 
order to compensate for the irremediable loss of your 
soul, I shall give you the stakes you would have won 
had fate been with you, namely, the possibility of reliev- 
ing and of conquering, all through your life, that odd af- 
fection of ennui which is the source of all your maladies 
and of all your wretched progress. Never shall a desire 
be framed by you which I will not aid you to realize; 
you shall reign over your vulgar fellow-men; you shall 
be stocked with flattery, even with adoration; silver, 
gold, diamonds, fairylike palaces, shall come seeking you 
and shall pray you to accept them, without your having 
made an effort to attain them; you shall change father- 
land and country as often as your fancy may dictate; . 
you shall riot in pleasures, unwearying, in charming coun- 
tries where it is always warm and where the women are 
fragrant as the flowers — et cetera, et cetera . . ."he 
added, rising and taking leave of me with a pleasant 
smile. 

If I had not been afraid of humiliating myself before 
so vast an assemblage, I should gladly have fallen at 
the feet of this generous player to thank him for his 



84 POEMS IN PROSE 

unheard of munificence. But little by little, after I had 
left him, incurable distrust reentered my breast; I dared 
no longer believe in such prodigious good fortune, and, 
on going to bed, still saying my prayers through silly 
force of habit, I repeated in semi-slumber: "My God! 
Lord, my God! Let it be that the Devil keep his 
word!" 

THE ROPE 

To Edward Manet 

Illusions, my friend told me, are perhaps as number- 
less as the relations of men with one another, or of men 
to things. And when the illusion disappears, that is, 
when we see the being or the fact as it exists outside 
of us, we undergo a strange feeling, a complex half of 
regret for the vanished phantom, half of agreeable sur- 
prise before the novelty, before the real fact. If one 
phenomenon exists that is trite, evident, always the 
same, concerning the nature of Vv^hich it is impossible to 
be deceived, it is maternal love. It is as difficult to 
imagine a mother without maternal love as a light with- 
out heat; is it not then perfectly legitimate to attribute 
to maternal love all the words and actions of a mother, 
relating to her child? None the less hear this little story, 
in which I was singularly mystified by the most natural 
illusion. 

"My profession of painter drives me to regard atten- 
tively the visages, the physiognomies, which present 
themselves on my way, and you know what joy we derive 
from this faculty which renders life more vivid and sig- 
nificant in our eyes than for other men. In the secluded 
section where I live, and where great grassy spaces still 
separate the buildings, I often observed a child whose 



POEMS IN PROSE 85 

ardent and roguish countenance, more than all the rest, 
won me straightway. He posed for me more than once, 
and I transformed him, now into a little gypsy, now into 
an angel, now into mythological Love. I made him 
bear the violin of the vagabond, the Crown of Thorns 
and the Nails of the Passion, and the Torch of Eros. 
At length, I took so lively a pleasure in all the drollery 
of the youngster, that one day I begged his parents, 
poor folk, to be kind enough to yield him to me, promis- 
ing to clothe him well, to give him money and not to 
impose on him any task beyond cleaning my brushes and 
running my errands. The child, with his face washed, 
became charming, and the life he led with me seemed a 
paradise, compared to that he had undergone in the 
parental hovel. Only I must say that the little fellow as- 
tonished me at times by singular spells of precocious sad- 
ness, and that he soon manifested an immoderate taste 
for sugar and for liqueurs; so much so that one day when 
I found that, despite my numerous warnings, he had 
again been doing some pilfering of that sort, I threat- 
ened to send him back to his parents. Then I went out, 
and my business kept me away for quite some time. 

"What was my surprise and horror when, reentering 
the house, the first object that met my eyes was my little 
fellow, the frolicsome companion of my life, hanging from 
the panel of the closet! His feet almost touched the 
floor; a chair, which he had doubtless thrust back with 
his foot, was overturned beside him; his head was bent 
convulsively over one shoulder; his bloated face, and his 
eyes, quite wide open with a fearful fixity, gave at first 
the illusion of life. To take him down was not so easy 
a business as you might think. He was already quite 
stiff, and I had an inexplicable repugnance to letting 
him fall heavily to the floor. It was necessary to bear 
his whole weight on one arm, and, with the free hand, to 



86 POEMS IN PROSE 

cut the rope. But that accomplished, all was not yet 
done; the little monster had made use of a very slender 
twine which had entered deep into his flesh, and I must 
now, with delicate scissors, seek the cord between the two 
cushions of the swelling, to disengage the neck. 

"I have neglected to tell you that I called vigorously 
for help; but all my neighbors refused to come to my 
assistance, faithful in that to the habits of civilized man, 
who never wishes, I know not why, to mix in the affairs 
of one that has been hanged. Finally a physician came, 
who said that the child had been dead several hours. 
When, later, we had to disrobe him for burial, the cadav- 
erous rigidity was such that, despairing of bending his 
limbs, we had to tear and cut the garments to remove 
them. 

"The commissioner, to whom, naturally, I had to an- 
nounce the casualty, looked at me askew and said to 
me: 'Here's something suspicious,' moved doubtless by 
an inveterate desire and a professional habit of fright- 
ening, at all events, the innocent as well as the guilty. 

"There remained a supreme task to perform, the 
thought of which alone gave me a terrible anguish: I 
had to notify the parents. My feet refused to guide me 
to them. Finally, I had the courage. But, to rriy great 
astonishment, the mother was unmoved, not a tear oozed 
from the corner of her eye. I attributed that strange- 
ness to the very horror she must feel, and I recalled 
the well-known maxim: 'The most terrible sorrows are 
silent ones.' As to the father, he contented himself 
with saying with an air half brutalized, half pensive: 
'After all, it is perhaps for the best; he would always 
have come to a bad end!' 

"However, the body was stretched out on my couch, 
and, assisted by a servant, I was busying myself with 
the final preparations, when the mother entered my 



POEMS IN PROSE 87 

studio. She wished, she said, to see the body of her 
son. I could not, in truth, deny her the intoxication of 
her grief and refuse her that supreme and somber con- 
solation. Then she begged me to show her the place 
where her little one had hanged himself. *0h no, mad- 
am,' I answered, 'that would be bad for you.' And 
as my eyes turned involuntarily toward the fatal cup- 
board, I perceived, with disgust mingled with horror and 
wrath, that the nail had remained driven in the casing, 
with a long rope-end still hanging. I leapt rapidly to 
snatch away the last traces 6i the misfortune, and as I 
was going to hurl them out through the open window, 
the poor woman seized m.y arm and said in an irresist- 
ible tone: 'Oh! sir! leave that for me! I beg you! 
1 beseech you.' Her despair had doubtless become, it 
seemed to me, so frantic that she was now overcome with 
tenderness toward that which had served her son aa the 
instrument of death, and she wished to preserve it as 
a dear and horrible relic. — ^And she took possession of 
the nail and of the twine. 

"At last! At last! all was accomplished. There re- 
mained only to set myself back at work, even more stren- 
uously than usual, to drive out gradually the little corpse 
that haunted the recesses of my brain, the phantom of 
which wore me out with its great fixed eyes. But the 
next day I received a bundle of letters: some from lodg- 
ers in the house, several others from neighboring houses ; 
one from the first floor, another from the second, an- 
other froni the third, and so throughout! some in semi- 
humorous style, as though seeking to disguise beneath an 
apparent jocularity the sincerity of the request; others, 
grossly shameless and without spelling; but all tending 
to the same goal, namely, to securing from me a bit 
of the fatal and beatific rope. Among the signers were, 
I must say, more women than men; but not all, I assure 



88 POEMS IN PROSE 

you, belonged to the lowest class. I have kept the let- 
ters. 

''And then, suddenly, a light glowed in my brain, and I 
understood why the mother was so very anxious to 
wrest the twine from me, and by what traffic she meant 
to be consoled." 

CALLINGS 

In a beautiful garden where the rays of the autumnal 
sun seemed to linger with delight, under a sky already 
greenish, in which golden clouds floated like voyaging 
continents, four fine children, four boys, doubtless tired 
of playing, were chatting away. 

One said: "Yesterday I was taken to the theatre. In 
great, sad palaces, where in the background spread the 
sea and the sky, men and women, also serious and sad, 
but much more beautiful and much better dressed than 
any we see about, were talking with musical voices. They 
threatened one another, they entreated, they were dis- 
consolate, and often they rested a hand on a dagger 
sunk within the sash. Ah! that is beautiful indeed! 
The women are much more beautiful and much greater 
than those that come to the house to visit us, and al- 
though with their great hollow eyes and their fiery 
cheeks they have a terrible look, you can not help lov- 
ing them. You are afraid, you want to cry, and still 
you are content. . . . And then, what is stranger still, 
it all makes you want to be dressed the same, to say 
and to do the same things, to speak with the same 
voice. . . ." 

One of the four children, who for several moments had 
no longer been listening to his comrade's talk, and had 
been watching with surprising fixity some point or other 
in the sky, said all at once: "Look, look down there! 



POEMS IN PROSE 89 

Do you see Him? He is sitting on that little isolated 
cloud, that little fiery cloud, which is moving slowly. 
He too, they say, He watches us." 

"Who? Who?" asked the others. 

"God!" he answered, with the accent of perfect con- 
viction. — "Ah! He is already quite far away; by and 
by you will not be able to see Him. Doubtless He is 
traveling to visit every land. Look, He is going to pass 
in back of that line of trees near the horizon . . . , and 
now He is going down behind the steeple. ... Ah! you 
can't see Him any longer!" And the child remained for 
some time turned in the same direction, fixing on the line 
which separates earth from the sky eyes in which burned 
an inexpressible glow of ecstasy and regret. 

"He is a fool, that one, with his good God, whom he 
alone can see!" then said the third, whose whole person 
was marked with a singular vivacity and life. "/ am 
going to tell you how something happened to me which 
has never happened to you, and which is a little more 
interesting than your theatre and your clouds . . . 
Several days ago my parents took me on a trip with 
them, and as the inn where we stopped didn't have 
enough beds for all of us, it was decided that I should 
sleep in the same bed as my nursery maid." He drew 
his comrades quite close and spoke in a lower tone. 
"That was a strange performance, now! not to sleep 
alone, and to be in bed with your maid, in the dark. As 
I couldn't sleep, I amused myself, while she was sleeping, 
by passing my hand over her arms, her neck, and her 
shoulders. She has a much thicker neck and arm than 
all other women, and her skin is so soft, so soft, that 
you might call it note-paper or silver paper. I liked it 
so much that I should have kept on for a long time, if I 
hadn't been afraid, afraid at first of waking her, and 
then still afraid of I don't know what. Then I buried 



90 POEMS IN PROSE 

my head in the hair which lay down her back, thick as 
a mane, and it smelled just as good, I assure you, as 
the flowers in the garden, right now. Try, when you can, 
to do as much, and you will see!" 

The young author of this prodigious revelation, in 
telling his story, had his eyes wide open in a sort of 
stupefaction at what he still felt, and the rays of the 
setting sun, slipping across the sandy locks of his ruffled 
hair, illumined it like a sulphurous aureole of passion. 
It was easy to guess that this youngster would not lose 
his life seeking Divinity in the clouds, and that he would 
frequently discover it elsewhere. 

At last the fourth spoke: "You know that I seldom 
find amusment at home. I am never taken to a play; 
my tutor is too stingy; God doesn't bother about me and 
my ennui, and I haven't a pretty nurse to fondle me. 
It has often seemed to me that I should just like to go 
forever straight ahead, without knowing where, without 
any one's being worried, always to see new lands. I am 
never well off anywhere, and I always think I shall be 
better somewhere else. Oh well! I saw, at the last fair 
at the nearby village, three men who lived as I should 
like to. You paid no attention to them, you others. 
They were large, almost black, and very proud, al- 
though in rags, looking as though they had need of no 
one. Their great gloomy eyes became quite brilliant 
while they played their music; a music so astonishing 
that it made you want now to dance, now to cry, or to 
do both together, and it would almost make you go mad 
if you listened too long. One, drawing his bow across 
his violin, seemed to be whispering sorrow; another, 
making his hammer skip over the keys of a little piano 
hung by a strap about his neck, appeared to be mocking 
the plaint of his neighbor; while from time to time the 
third clashed his cymbals with extraordinary violence. 



POEMS IN PROSE 91 

They were so pleased with themselves that they went on 
playing their wild music even after the crowd had gone 
away. Finally they gathered together their sous, piled 
their luggage on their back, and left. I wanted to know 
where they lived, and I followed them from afar, right 
to the edge of the forest, and only then, I understood 
that they lived nowhere. 

"Then one said: 'Must we pitch the tent?' 

"'Goodness! No!' answered the other. 'It's such a 
pleasant night!' 

"The third spoke, while figuring up the collection: 
'These folks do not appreciate music, and their wives 
dance like bears. Fortunately, within a month we shall 
be in Austria, where we shall find more amiable folk.' 

" 'Perhaps we'd do better to go toward Spain, for the 
season is forward; let us flee before the rains, and mois- 
ten nothing but our gullets,' said one of the others. 

"I remember everything, as you see. Then each one 
drank a cup of brandy and went to sleep, with his 
forehead toward the stars. At first I wanted to beg them 
to take me along with them and to teach me to play their 
instruments; but I didn't dare, doubtless because it is al- 
ways very difficult to come to a decision about any- 
thing, and also because I was afraid of being recaptured 
before we were out of France." 

The slightly interested air of the three other com- 
rades made me realize that this fellow was already 
misunderstood. I looked at him closely; there was in 
in his eye and on his brow that indescribable fatal pre- 
cocity which generally repells sympathy, and which, I 
know not why, aroused my own to the point that for 
a moment I had the queer notion that I might have a 
brother unknown to me. 

The sun had set. The solemn night was come. The 



92 POEMS IN PROSE 

children separated, each going in ignorance, according 
to circumstance and chance, to reap his destiny, scan- 
dalize his relatives, and gravitate toward glory or toward 
dishonor. 



A THOROUGHBRED 

She is quite ill-favored. None the less she is delight- 
ful! Time and Love have scarred her with their claws, 
and have cruelly taught her that every moment and 
every kiss bears away youth and freshness. 

She is indeed ugly; she is an ant, a spider, if you 
insist, a very carcass; but she is, as well, a potion, a 
magistral, an enchantment! in short, she is exquisite! 

Time could not break the sparkling harmony of her 
walk, nor the indestructible elegance of her stays. Love 
has not changed the sweetness of her childlike breath; 
Time has plucked nothing of her abundant mane, from 
which is breathed in tawny perfumes all the devilish vital- 
ity of Southern France: Nimes, Aix, Aries, Avignon, Nar- 
bonne, Toulouse, towns blessed by the sun, amorous and 
charming! 

Time and Love have vainly nibbled with sharp teeth; 
they have in no way lessened the vague but eternal 
charm of her hoyden breast. 

Worn perhaps, but not wearied, and always heroic, 
she brings thoughts of those full-blooded horses w^hich 
the eye of the true amateur will recognize, even hitched 
to a hackney or to a heavy truck. 

And then she is so sweet and so fervent! She loves as 
one loves in the autumn; you would say that the ap- 
proach of winter lights a new fire in her heart, and 
the servility of her tenderness is never wearying. 



POEMS IN PROSE 93 



THE MIRROR 

A FRIGHTFUL man enters, and looks at himself in 
a glass. 

"Why do you look at yourself in the mirror, since you 
can view yourself only with displeasure?" 

The frightful man answers me: "Sir, in accordance 
with the immortal principles pf '89, all men have equal 
rights; therefore I have the right to behold myself; with 
pleasure or displeasure, that concerns only my con- 
science." 

In the name of common sense, I was surely right; 
but, from a legal standpoint, he was not wrong. 



THE HARBOR 

A HARBOR is a charming abode for a soul weary of 
the struggles of life. The amplitude of the *sky, the 
mobile architecture of the clouds, the changing color- 
ations of the sea, the scintillating of the beacon-lights, 
form a prism marvellously adapted to entertain the eyes 
without tiring them. The slender forms of the ships, 
with their complicated rigging, to which the billows give 
harmonious oscillations, serve to maintain the taste for 
rhythm and for beauty. And, above all, there is a sort 
of mysterious and aristocratic pleasure for him who no 
longer has curiosity or ambition, in contemplating, 
couched in the turret or leaning on the pier, all the move- 
ments of those who depart and those who return, of 
those who still have the strength to will, the desire to 
travel or to acquire wealth. 



94 POEMS IN PROSE 



MISTRESSES' PORTRAITS 

In a men's boudoir, that is, in a smoking room ad- 
joining a fashionable brothel, four men were smoking 
and drinking. They were not exactly either young or 
old, either handsome or ugly; but, old or young, they 
bore that unmistakable distinction of veterans of joy, 
that indescribable something-or-other, that cold and scoff- 
ing sadness that so clearly says: "We have lived force- 
fully, and we seek what we can love and prize." 

One of them drew the talk to the subject of women. 
It would have been more philosophical not to have 
spoken of them at all; but there are men of parts who, 
after drinking, do not disdain commonplace conversa- 
tions. One listens, then, to the one that speaks as to 
the music of a dance. 

"All men," said this one, "have passed through the 
age of the Cherub: that is the period when, in default 
of dryads, one embraces, without disgust, the trunks of 
oaks. It is the first degree of love. At the second de- 
gree, one begins to choose. To be able to deliberate is 
already decadence. Then it is that one makes a decided 
search for beauty. As for me, gentlemen, I take pride 
in having long ago reached the climactic period of the 
third degree, when beauty itself no longer suffices, unless 
it be seasoned with perfume, with finery, et cetera. I 
will even confess that I sometimes aspire, as to an un- 
known happiness, to a certain fourth degree which is 
marked by absolute calm. But, all through my life, ex- 
cept at the Cherub age, I have been more sensible than 
all others of the enervating folly, of the irritating medi- 
ocrity, of women. What I like above all in animals is 



POEMS IN PROSE 9^ 

their candor. Judge then how much I suffered at the 
hands of my last mistress. 

"She was a prince's bastard. Beautiful, that goes 
without saying; otherwise, why should I have taken her? 
But she spoiled that great quality by an unseemly, de- 
formed ambition. She was a woman who wanted al- 
ways to play the man. 'You're not a man! ' 'Of the two, 
it is I who am the man!' Such were the unbearable re- 
frains that came from her mouth when I wished to see 
nothing but songs take wing. 

"In regard to a book, a poem, an opera, for which I 
let my admiration escape: 'So you think this is rather 
powerful?' she would say at once; 'since when are you 
a judge of power?' and she would argue on. 

"One fine day she took to chemistry; so that between 
her mouth and mine I found thenceforth a mask of glass. 
V^ith all that, quite squeamish. If now and then I jostled 
her with too amorous a ge:ture, she raved like a rav- 
ished virgin." 

"How did it end?" asked one of the three others. "I 
never knew you so patient." 

"God," he replied, "found the remedy in the ill. 
One day I found this Minerva, craving for ideal force, 
alone with my servant, and in a situation which forced 
me to retire discreetly, so as not to make them blush. 
That evening, I dismissed them both, giving them the 
arrears of their wages." 

"As for me," continued the interrupter, "I have only 
myself to complain of. Happiness came to dwell with 
me, and I did not know her. Fate once granted me the 
enjoyment of a woman who was indeed the sweetest, the 
most submissive, the most devoted of creatures, and 
always ready, and without enthusiasm. 'I am quite 
willing, since it's agreeable to you.' That was her usual 
response. You might give a bastinado to this wall or 



96 POEMS IN PROSE 

this couch and draw from it as many sighs as the most 
infuriate transports of love would draw from the breast 
of my mistress. After a year of life together, she con- 
fessed to me that she had never known pleasure. I lost 
taste in the unequal duel, and that incomparable girl 
got married. Later I had a fancy to see her, and she 
said, showing me six fine children: 'Well, my dear friend, 
the wife is still as much a virgin as was your mistress.' 
Nothing had changed. Sometimes I regret her ; I should 
have married her." 

The others burst into laughter, and a third spoke in 
turn: 

"Gentlemen, I have known joys which you have per- 
haps neglected. I mean the comical in love, and a comi- 
cal which does not bar admiration. I admired my last 
mistress, I think, more than you could have loved or 
hated yours. And every one admired her as much as I. 
When we entered a restaurant, after a few minutes every 
one forgot to eat in watching her. The barmaid and 
the waiters themselves felt the contagious ecstasy so 
far as to neglect their duties. In short, I lived for some 
time face to face with a living phenomenon. She ate, 
chewed, ground, devoured, swallowed up, but with the 
lightest and most careless air imaginable. In this way 
she kept me for a long time in ecstasy. She had a soft, 
dreamy, English and romantic way of saying: *I am hun- 
gry.' And she repeated these words day and night, 
revealing the prettiest teeth in the world, which would 
soften and enliven you together. — I could have made 
my fortune exhibiting her at fairs, as a polyphagous 
monster. I nourished her well, but none the less she 
left me. ..." 

"For a purveyor of provisions, undoubtedly?" 

"Something of the sort, a kind of employee in the com- 
missariat who, by some by-profit unknown to her, per- 



POEMS IN PROSE 97 

haps furnished the poor child with the rations of several 
soldiers. At least, so I imagine." 

"As for me," said the fourth, "I have endured grievous, 
sufferings through the opposite of that with which we 
usually reproach the female egoist. You are quite un- 
justified, too happy mortals, in complaining of the im- 
perfections of your mistresses!" 

This was said in a very serious tone, by a man of pleas- 
ant and sedate appearance, of an almost clerical coim- 
tenance, unhappily lighted ,by clear grey eyes, those 
eyes whose glances spoke: "I wish it!" or "It is neces- 
sary!" or indeed "I never forgive!" 

"If, nervous as I know you to be, you, G , sloth- 
ful and trifling as you are, you two, K and J , 

if you had been matched with a certain woman I know, 
either you would have fled, or you would have died. 
I survived, as you see. Imagine a person incapable of 
making an error, from feeling or from design; imagine 
a provoking serenity of mind, a devotion without sham 
and without parade, a softness without weakness, an 
energy without violence. The story of my love is like 
an endless voyage on a surface as pure and polished as 
a mirror, dizzily monotonous, reflecting all my feelings 
and my movements with the ironic exactness of my own 
conscience, so that I could not allow myself an unrea- 
sonable move or emotion without immediately beholding 
the dumb reproach of my inseparable spectre. Love 
seemed to me like a protectorate. How much nonsense 
she stopped me from committing, which I regret not 
having done! How m.any debts I paid despite myself! 
She deprived me of all the benefits I could have reaped 
from my personal folly. With a cold and impassable 
rule, she barred all my caprices. To crown the horror, 
she demanded no gratitude when the danger was passed. 
How many times have I not held myself from leaping at 



98 POEMS IN PROSE 

her throat, crying: 'Be imperfect, wretch! so that I can 
love you without uneasiness and wrath!' For several 
years I wondered at her, my heart full of hate. Finally, 
it was not I that died of it!" 

"Ah!" said the others, "then she is dead?" 

"Yes. Things could not go on like that. Love had 
become an overwhelming nightmare to me. Victory or 
death, as the Politics says, such was the alternative 
which destiny imposed. One evening, in a wood . . ., 
at the edge of a pond . . . , after a melancholy walk in 
which her eyes reflected the gentleness of heaven, and 
my heart was thrilling with hell ..." 

"What!" 

"What's that?" 

"What do you mean?" 

"It was inevitable. I had too great a sense of justice 
to beat, to insult, or to dismiss an irreproachable servant. 
But I had to reconcile that feeling to the horror which 
that being inspired in me; rid myself of that being with- 
out losing her respect. What would you want me to do 
with her, since she was perfect?" 

The three others looked at him with an uncertain and 
somewhat stupefied gaze, as though feigning not to under- 
stand and as though tacitly avowing that they did not 
feel themselves capable of so rigorous an act, however 
sufficiently accounted for in another. 

Then they ordered fresh bottles, to kill time whose 
life is so sturdy, and to speed life, whose movement is 
so slow. 



SOUP AND THE CLOUDS 

My well-beloved little madcap was dining with me, 
and through the open window of the dining-room I was 



POEMS IN PROSE 99 

contemplating the moving architecture which God formed 
from the vapors, the marvellous constructions of the im- 
palpable. And I was saying to myself, in my reflection: 
"All these phantasmagoria are almost as beautiful as the 
eyes of my beautiful well-beloved, the little prodigious 
madcap with green eyes." 

And all at once I received a violent punch in the 
back, and I heard a hoarse and charming voice, a voice 
hysterical and husky as with brandy, which said to 
me: "Are you going to eat your soup, s . . ., b . . . of 
a dealer in clouds?" 



THE LOSS OF A HALO 

"Eh! What! You here, my dear? You, in a place of 
ill! You, the drinker of quintessences! you, the eater 
of ambrosia! Indeed, this is something surprising!" 

"My dear, you know my dread of horses^ and carri- 
ages. Just now, as I was crossing the boulevard, in 
great haste, and as I was hopping about in the mud, in 
the midst of that moving chaos where death arrives at a 
gallop from all sides at once, my halo, in a sudden start, 
slipped from my head into the mire of the macadam. 
I did not have the courage to pick it up. I thought 
it less disagreeable to lose my insignia than to have my 
bones broken. And then, I reflected, it's an ill wind 
that blowL no good. I can now go about incognito, per- 
form base actions, and give myself over to debauchery, 
like ordinary mortals. And here I am, quite like you, 
as you see!" 

"You ought at least have the halo advertised, or 
asked for at the police." 

"Heavens, no! I am quite well off here. You alone 
have recognized me. Besides, dignity was boring. Then, 



100 POEMS IN PROSE 

too, I think with joy that some poor poet will pick it 
up, and will impudently deck himself out. To make 
some one happy, what joy! and especially a happy one 

that makes me laugh! Think of X , or of Z 1 

Oh! that would be comical!" 



MLLE. BISTOURY 

When I had reached the heart of the slums, under the 
gaslights, I felt an arm which slid softly under mine, 
and I heard a voice which whispered: ''You are a doctor, 
sir?" 

I looked: it was a big girl, robust, slightly rouged, her 
eyes wide open, her hair iioating in the wind with her 
bonnet strings. 

"No, I am not a doctor. Let me pass." 

"Oh yes! you are a doctor. I can see it well. Come 
to my house. You will be quite satisfied, I assure you. 
I shall doubtless go to see you, but later, after the doc- 
tor, goodness me! . . . Ha! Ha!" she exclaimed, still 
clinging to my arm and bursting into laughter. "You 
are a physician jokster. I have known several of that 
sort. Come." 

I am passionately in love with mystery, because I al- 
ways hope to unravel it. So I let myself be led by my 
companion, or rather, by the unlooked-for enigma. 

I omit description of the hovel; it can be found in 
several well known old French poets. Only, detail un- 
noticed by Regnier, two or three portraits of renowned 
physicians were hung upon the wall. 

How I was pampered! A great fire, warm wine, ci- 
gars; and while offering me these fine things and lighting 
a cigar for herself the comical creature said to me: 
"Make yourself at home; be quite at ease. This will 



POEMS IN PROSE loi 

bring back the hospital and the happy days of your 
youth ... Oh look! where did you win those white 
hairs? You were not like that, not so long ago, when 

you were interne at L . I remember it was you that 

helped at the major operations. There was a man that 
loved to cut, hew, lop off! It was you that handed him 
the instruments, the threads and the sponges. . . . 
And how proudly, the operation performed, he used 
to say, looking at his watch, 'Five minutes, gentle- 
men!' Oh! I, I go everywhere! I know these people 
well!" 

A few moments later, in more familiar tone, harping on 
the same theme, she said: "You are a doctor, aren't you, 
darling?" 

That unintelligible refrain brought me to my feeL 
"No!" I cried, furious. 

^'Surgeon, then?" 

"No! No! unless it be to cut off your head!" 

"Wait," she continued, "you shall see." 

And she drew from a closet a file of papers which 
was nothing else than the collection of illustrious doctors 
of the day, lithographed by Maurin, that was displayed 
for several years on the Quay Voltaire. 

"Look, do you recognize this one?" 

"Yes, it's X . The name is at the bottom, be- 
sides; but I know him personally." 

"I should say so! Look! Here is Z , the one who 

said in "his course, speaking of X , 'this monster, 

bearing on his face the blackness of his soul!' all be- 
cause the other did not agree with him in a certain case! 
How they laughed at that in the school, at the time! 
Do you remember? . . . Look! here is K , who de- 
nounced to the authorities the rebels he was caring for 
at his hospital. That was at the time of the riots. How 
is it possible so handsome a man can have so little heart? 



102 POEMS IN PROSE 

. . . This one is W , a famous Englishman; I cap- 
tured him on his visit to Paris. He looks like a girl, 
doesn't he?" 

And as I touched a little tied-up parcel, also on the 
table: "Wait a while," she said, "In this one are the 
internes; and that package has the dressers." 

And she spread out, fanlike, a mass of photographs, 
picturing much younger faces. 

"When we see each other again, you will give me your 
portrait, won't you, deary?" 

"But," I said to her, I also following my fixed idea, 
"what makes you think I am a doctor?" 

"It's because you are so amiable and good to women!" 

"Peculiar logic," I said to myself. 

"Oh! I am hardly ever mistaken; I have known quite 
a number. I love them so much that, even though I am 
not sick, I sometimes go to see them, only to see them. 
There are some who say coldly: 'You are not sick at all!' 
But there are others who understand me, because I ogle 
them." 

"And when they do not understand?" 

"Well, since I have disturbed them fruitlessly, I leave 
ten francs on the mantel. . . . They are so good and 
so kind, these folk! I discovered a little interne at the 
Piete, pretty as an angel, and so refined! and a worker, 
the poor boy! His comrades told me he didn't have a 
sou, because his parents were poor folks who couldn't 
send him anything. That gave me confidence. After all, I 
am a fairly good looking woman, although not too young. 
I said to him: 'Come to see me, come to see me often. 
With me you needn't bother: I have no need of money.' 
But you know that I made him understand that in a host 
of ways, I didn't tell it to him bluntly; I was so afraid 
of humiliating him, the dear child ! ... Oh well ! would 
you believe that I had a queer fancy I didn't dare to tell 



POEMS IN PROSE 105 

him? ... I should have liked him to come to see me 
with Jiis instrument case and his apron, even with a 
little blood on it." 

She said this in the most candid manner, as a feel- 
ing man would say to an actress that he loved: "I want 
to see you dressed in the costume you wore in this famous 
role that you created . . . . " 

I, persisting, continued: "Can you remember the time 
and the occasion when this so special passion was born 
in you?" 

I made her understand with difficulty; finally I suc- 
ceeded. But then she answered in a very sad tone, and 
even, as well as I can recall, lowering her eyes: "I don't 
know . . ., I can't remember." 

What oddities can be found in a great city, if one 
knows how to walk about and watch. Life swarms with 
innocent monsters, — 

Lord, my God! You, the Creator, You the Master, 
You who have created Law and Liberty; You, the Sov- 
ereign that doth not interfere; You, the Judge that par- 
doneth; You who are full of motives and causes, and 
who perhaps have planted a taste for horror in my mind 
in order to convert my soul, as the recovery after a 
sword; Lord, have pity, have pity on madmen and mad 
women! O Creator, can monsters exist in the eyes of 
Him who alone knows why they exist, how they are 
made, and how they need not have been made? 



LET US FLAY THE POOR 

For a fortnight I was confined to my room, and I 
surrounded myself with the books of the day (sixteen or 
seventeen years ago) ; I mean those volumes which treat 
of the art of making people happy, wise and rich, in 



104 POEMS IN PROSE 

twenty-four hours. I had thus digested — swallowed, I 
should say — all the lucubrations of all those master- 
builders of the public weal, of those who advise all the 
poor to enslave themselves, and of those who persuade 
them they are all dethroned kings. There is, then, 
naught surprising in the fact that I was in a state of 
mind bordering on intoxication or stupidity. 

It seemed to me merely that I felt, imprisoned in the 
depths of my intelligence, the obscure germ of an idea 
superior to all the old wives' formulae the cyclopedia of 
which I had just run through. But it was only the 
thought of a thought, a something infinitely vague. 

And I went forth with a great thirst, for the impas- 
sioned taste of poor reading engenders a proportionate 
need of open air and of refreshment. 

As I was about to enter a tavern, a beggar held out 
his hat to me, with one of those unforgettable glances 
that would tumble down thrones, if the mental moved 
the material, and if a mesmerist's glance could ripen 
grapes. 

At the same time, I heard a voice which whispered 
at my ear, a voice that I knew well: it was that of a 
good angel, or a good Demon, who is with me every- 
where. Since Socrates had his good Demon, why may 
not I have my good Angel, and why may not I have the 
'honor, like Socrates, of securing my brevet in folly, 
signed by the subtle Lelut and the well-advised Baillar- 
get?* 

There is this difference between the Demon of Soc- 
rates and my own, that his manifested itself only to 
warn, to forbid, to prevent, and that mine deigns to 
counsel, suggest, persuade. Poor Socrates had only a 
Demon prohibitor; mine is a great affirmator, mine is a 
Demon of action, or a Demon of combat. 

* Famous Parisian alienists of the time. 



POEMS IN PROSE 105 

Now, his voice whispered to me thus: "He alone is the 
equal of another, that proves it; and he alone is worthy 
of liberty, that can secure it." 

Immediately I leapt upon the beggar. With one 
punch, I stopped an eye, which became in a moment 
large as a ball. I broke one of my nails shattering two 
of his teeth, and as I did not feel strong enough, having 
been born delicate and having had but little practice in 
boxing, to beat the old fellow to death right away, I 
grasped him by one hand by the collar of his coat, and 
with the other I throttled him, and I set to work dash- 
ing his head against a wall. I must avow that I had first 
inspected the surroundings in a glance, and had made 
sure that in that deserted suburb I should be long 
enough out of the reach of a policeman. 

Having then, with a kick in the back, hard enough to 
break his shoulderblade, felled the enfeebled sexage- 
narian, I seized a great branch of a tree which lay along 
the ground, and I beat him with the determined energy 
of cooks trying to make a beefsteak tender. 

All at once, — O miracle! O joy of the philosopher 
who proves the excellence of his theory! — I saw that 
antiqve carcass turn about, straighten up with an energy 
I should never have suspected in so strangely disordered 
a madv'ne — and, with a glance of hate that seemed to 
me gr-d omen, the decrepit ruffian hurled himself upon 
me, blackened both my eyes, broke four teeth, and with 
the same branch beat me stiff as a jelly. By my ener- 
getic medication, I had restored to him pride and life. 

Then I made any number of signs to him to make 
him understand that I considered the matter closed, and, 
rising with the satisfaction of a philosopher of the Porch, 
I said to him: "Sir, you are- my equal/ Kindly do me 
the honor of sharing my purse; and remember, if you 
are truly philanthropic, that you must apply to all your 



io6 POEMS IN PROSE 

colleagues, when they ask for alms, the theory that I 
have had the sorrow of trying on your back." 

Hq swore to me that he understood my theory, and 
that he would obey my counsels. 



GOOD DOGS 
To Mr. Joseph Stevens 

I HAVE nearer, even before the young writers of my 
century, been ashamed of my admiration for Buffon; 
but to-day it is not the spirit of that painter of lofty 
nature that I would call to my assistance. No. 

Much more willingly I call to Sterne, and I say to 
him: "Descend from heaven, or climb to me from the 
Elysian Fields, to inspire me in behalf of good dogs, 
of poor dogs, with a song worthy of thee, sentimental 
farceur, farceur incomparable. Come back astraddle that- 
famous ass which will always accompany you in the 
memory of the future; and especially do not let that 
ass forget to carry, delicately hung between his lips, 
his immortal macaroons." 

Away with the academic muse! I have no business 
with that old prude. I invoke the familiar m.vre, the 
citizen, the boon companion, to aid me to sing tl '^ good 
dogs, the poor dogs, the dirty dogs, those whom every 
one drives away, pestiferous and lousy, except the poor, 
whose associates they are, and the poet, who sees them 
with fraternal eye. 

Fie upon the foppish dog, upon the coxcomb quad- 
ruped, Dane, King Charles, pugdog or lapdog, so en- 
amoured of himself that he darts inconsiderately be- 
tween the legs or on the knees of the visitor, as if he 
were certain of pleasing, wild as a youngster, foolish as 



POEMS IN PROSE 107 

a flirt, often surly and insolent as a servant! Fie es- 
pecially upon those four-pawed serpents, idle and shiv- 
ering, that are called greyhounds, and that do not har- 
bor in their pointed muzzle enough scent to follow the 
track of a friend, nor in their flattened head enough in- 
telligence to play at dominoes! 

To the kennel with all these plaguy parasites! 

Let them slink to the kennel stuffed and sulky! I 
sing the dirty dog, the poor dog, the homeless dog, the 
stroller dog, the dog buffoon, the dog whose instinct, like 
that of the poor, the gypsy and the mountebank, is mar- 
vellously sharpened by necessity, that excellent mother, 
that true patron of intelligence ! 

I sing the distressful dogs, be they those that wander, 
alone, in the winding gullies of the great cities or those 
who have said to the forsaken man, with blinking spir- 
itual eyes: "Take me with you, and of two miseries we 
shall make a sort of joy!" 

"Whither go the dogs?" Nestor Roquepelan once said 
in an immortal leaflet which he has doubtless forgotten, 
and which I alone, and perhaps Saint-Beuve, recall to- 
day. 

Where do the dogs go, you ask, heedless men? They 
go about their business. 

Business engagements, affairs of love. Through the 
fog, through the snow, through the mire, under the bit- 
ing dogstar, under the streaming rain, they come, they 
go, they hurry, they move along under carriages, ex- 
cited by fleas, by passion, by duty or by need. Like us, 
they have risen bright and early, and they seek their 
livelihood or run to their pleasure. 

There are some who sleep in a ruin in the suburbs 
and who come every day at a stated hour, to beg alms 
at the door of a Palais- Royal cook; others who run in 
troops, for more than five leagues, to partake of the 



io8 POEMS IN PROSE 

repast which has been prepared for them through the 
charity of certain sexagenarian maids, whose unoccupied 
hearts are given over to beasts, since imbecile man wants 
them no more; others who, like runaway negroes, fran- 
tic with love, leave their province on certain days, to 
come to the city and romp for an hour with a handsome 
bitch, a little careless in her toilet, but proud and thank- 
ful. 

And they are all very precise, without notebooks, with- 
out memoranda, without portfolios. 

Do you know slothful Belgium, and have you, like me, 
admired all those vigorous dogs hitched to the cart of 
the butcher, of the milkmaid, of the baker, who give evi- 
dence in their triumphant barks, of the proud pleasure 
they feel in rivalling the horse? 

And here are two that belong to a still more civilized 
order! Permit me to introduce you into the room of an 
absent mountebank. A bed, of painted wood, without 
curtains, with dragging covers stained with bugs; two 
cane chairs, a cast-iron stove, one or two disordered 
musical instruments. Oh, what sad furniture! But 
look, I pray you, at these two intelligent personages, clad 
in garments at once sumptuous and frayed, hooded like 
troubadours or soldiers, who are guarding, with the close 
watch of a sorcerer, the nameless something which sim- 
mers on the lighted stove, and from the center of which a 
long spoon stands forth, planted as one of those aerial 
masts which announce that the masonry is complete. 

Is it not just that such zealous comedians should not 
set out without having well lined their stomachs with a 
strong, sound soup? And will you not forgive a littles 
sensuality in these poor devils who all day have to face 
the indifference of the public and the injustice of a di- 
rector who deems himself the whole show and who alone 
eats more soup than four actors? 



POEMS IN PROSE 109 

How often have I contemplated, touched and smiling, 
all these four-footed philosophers, compliant, submissive 
or devoted slaves, whom the republican dictionary might 
well call ''fellows," * if the republic, too busied with the 
happiness of men, had time to respect the honor of dogs ! 

And how many times have I thought that perhaps 
there is somewhere (who knows, after all?), to reward so 
much courage, so much of patience and of labor, a special 
paradise for good dogs, for poor dogs, for dirty and af- 
flicted dogs. Swedenborg affirms that there is one for 
the Turks and one for the Dutchmen ! 

The shepherds of Virgil and of Theocritus expected, as 
prize for their alternate songs, a good cheese, a flute 
from the best maker, or a she-goat with swelling udders. 
The poet who has sung the good dogs has received for 
reward a fine vest, of a color both faded and rich, which 
brings thoughts of the autumn suns, of the beauty of 
matured women and of the summers of Saint-Martin, 

None of those who were present in the tavern of Rue 
Villa-Hermosa will forget with what petulance the 
painter was despoiled of his vest for the poet, so well had 
he understood that it is good and seemly to sing of poor 
dogs. 

Thus a magnificent Italian tyrant, in the good old 
days, offered the divine Aretine a dagger rich with jew- 
els, or a courtly gown, in exchange for a precious son- 
net or a rare satiric poem. 

And whenever the poet dons the painter's vest, he is 
forced to think of the good dogs, of the dog philosophers, 
of the summers of Saint-Martin and of the beauty of 
full-blown women. 

* "Officieux" was the term adopted by the Republic, to re- 
place "domestique" and "valet," and to indicate the equality 
of all — even master and man. 



LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 
Translated by F. P. Stxjeim 



EVERY MAN HIS CHIM^ERA 

Beneath a broad grey sky, upon a vast and dusty 
plain devoid of grass, and where not even a nettle or a 
thistle was to be seen, I met several men who walked 
bowed down to the ground. 

Each one carried upon his back an enormous Chimaera 
as heavy as a sack of flour or coal, or as the equipment of 
a Roman foot-soldier. 

But the monstrous beast was not a dead weight, rather 
she enveloped and oppressed the men with her powerful 
and elastic muscles, and clawed with her two vast talons 
at the breast of her mount. Her fabulous head reposed 
upon the brow of the man like one of those horrible 
casques by which ancient warriors hoped to add to the 
terrors of the enemy. 

I questioned one of the men, asking him why they 
went so. He replied that he knew nothing, neither he 
nor the others, but that evidently they went somewhere, 
since they were urged on by an unconquerable desire to 
walk. 

Very curiously, none of the wayfarers seemed to be 
irritated by the ferocious beast hanging at his neck and 
cleaving to his back: one had said that he considered it 
as a part of himself. These grave and weary faces bore 
witness to no despair. Beneath the splenetic cupola of 
the heavens, their feet trudging through the dust of an 
earth as desolate as the sky, they journeyed onwards 
with the resigned faces of men condemned to hope for 
ever. So the train passed me and faded intO' the atmos- 
phere of the horizon at the place where the planet un- 
veils herself to the curiosity of the human eye. 

During several moments I obstinately endeavoured to 
comprehend this mystery; but irresistible Indifference 

"3 



114 LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 

soon threw herself upon me, nor was I more heavily 
dejected thereby than they by their crushing Chimaeras. 



VENUS AND THE FOOL 

How admirable the day! The vast park swoons be- 
neath the burning eye of the sun, as youth beneath the 
lordship of love. 

There is no rumour of the universal ecstasy of all 
things. The waters themselves are as though drifting 
into sleep. Very different from the festivals of human- 
ity, here is a silent revel. 

It seems as though an ever-waning light makes all 
objects glimmer more and more, as though the excited 
fiowers bum with a desire to rival the blue of the sky 
by the vividness of their colours; as though the heat, 
making perfumes visible, drives them in vapour towards 
their star. 

Yet, in the midst of this universal joy, I have perceived 
one afflicted thing. 

At the feet of a colossal Venus, one of those motley 
fools, those willing clowns whose business it is to bring 
laughter upon kings when weariness or remorse pos- 
sesses them, lies wrapped in his gaudy and ridiculous 
garments, coiffed with his cap and bells, huddled against 
the pedestal, and raises towards the goddess his eyes 
filled with tears. 

And his eyes say: "I am the last and most alone of all 
mortals, inferior to the meanest of animals in that I am 
denied either love or friendship. Yet I am made, even 
I, for the understanding and enjoyment of immortal 
Beauty. O Goddess, have pity upon my sadness and my 
frenzy." 

The implacable Venus gazed into I know not what 
distances with her marble eyes. 



LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 115 



ALREADY! 

A HUNDRED times already the sun had leaped, radi- 
ant or saddened, from the immense cup of the sea whose 
rim could scarcely be seen ; a hundred times it had again 
sunk, glittering or morose, into its mighty bath of twi- 
light. For many days we had contemplated the other 
side of the firmament, and deciphered the celestial alpha- 
bet of the antipodes. And e^ch of the passengers sighed 
and complained. One had said that the approach of 
land only exasperated their sufferings. "When, then," 
they said, "shall we cease to sleep a sleep broken by the 
surge, troubled by a wind that snores louder than we? 
When shall we be able to eat at an unmoving table?" 

There were those who thought of their own firesides, 
who regretted their sullen, faithless wives, and their 
noisy progeny. All so doted upon the image of the 
absent land, that I believe they would have eaten grass 
with as much enthusiasm as the beasts. 

At length a coast was signalled, and on approaching 
we saw a magnificent and dazzling land. It seemed as 
though the music of life flowed therefrom in a vague 
murmur; and the banks, rich with all kinds of growths, 
breathed, for leagues around, a delicious odour of flowers 
and fruits. 

Each one therefore was joyful; his evil humour left 
him. Quarrels were forgotten, reciprocal wrongs for- 
given, the thought of duels was blotted out of the mem- 
ory, and rancour fled away like smoke. 

I alone was sad, inconceivably sad. Like a priest 
from whom one has torn his divinity, I could not, with- 
out heartbreaking bitterness, leave this so monstrously 
seductive ocean, this sea so infinitely various in its ter- 
rifying simplicity, which seemed to contain in itself and 



ii6 LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 

represent by its joys, and attractions, and angers, and 
smiles, the moods and agonies and ecstasies of all souls 
that have lived, that live, and that shall yet live. 

In saying good-bye to this incomparable beauty I felt 
as though I had been smitten to death; and that is why 
when each of my companions said: "At last!" I could 
only cry ^^ Already 1'* 

Here meanwhile was the land, the land with its noises, 
its passions, its commodities, its festivals: a land rich 
and magnificent, full of promises, that sent to us a mys- 
terious perfume of rose and musk, and from whence the 
music of life flowed in an amorous murmuring. 

THE DOUBLE CHAMBER 

A CHAMBER that is like a reverie; a chamber truly 
spiritual, where the stagnant atmosphere is lightly 
touched with rose and blue. 

There the soul bathes itself in indolence made odorous 
with regret and desire. There is some sense of the twi- 
light, of things tinged with blue and rose: a dream of 
delight during an eclipse. The shape of the furniture is 
elongated, low, languishing; one would think it endowed 
with the somnambulistic vitality of plants and minerals. 

The tapestries speak an inarticulate language, like the 
flowers, the skies, the dropping suns. 

There are no artistic abominations upon the walls. 
Compared with the pure dream, with an impression un- 
analyzed, definite art, positive art, is a blasphemy. Here 
all has the sufficing lucidity and the delicious obscurity 
of music, , 

An infinitesimal odour of the most exquisite choice, 
mingled with a floating humidity, swims in this atmos- 
phere where the drowsing spirit is lulled by the sensa- 
tions one feels in a hothouse. 



LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 117 

The abundant muslin flows before the windows and 
the couch, and spreads out in snowy cascades. Upon 
the couch lies the Idol, ruler of my dreams. But why is 
she here? — who has brought her? — what magical power 
has installed her upon this throne of delight and reverie? 
What matter — she is there; and I recognize her. 

These indeed are the eyes whose flame pierces the 
twilight; the subtle and terrible mirrors that I recognize 
by their horrifying malice. They attract, they dominate, 
they devour the sight of whomsoever is imprudent 
enough to look at them. I have often studied them; 
these Black Stars that compel curiosity and admiration. 

To what benevolent demon, then, do I owe being 
thus surrounded with mystery, with silence, with peace, 
and sweet odours? O beatitude! the thing we name 
life, even in its most fortunate amplitude, has nothing in 
common with this supreme life with which I am now 
acquainted, which I taste minute by minute, second by 
second. 

Not so! Minutes are no more; seconds are no more. 
Time has vanished, and Eternity reigns — an Eternity of 
delight. 

A heavy and terrible knocking reverberates upon the 
door, and, as in a hellish dream, it seems to me as though 
I had received a blow from a mattock. 

Then a Spectre enters: it is an usher who comes to 
torture me in the name of the Law; an infamous concu- 
bine who. comes to cry misery and to add the trivialities 
of her life to the sorrow of mine ; or it may be the errand- 
boy of an editor who comes to implore the remainder of 
a manuscript. 

The Chamber of paradise, the Idol, the ruler of 
dreams, the Sylphide, as the great Rene said; all this 
magic has vanished at the brutal knocking of the Spectre. 

Horror; I remember, I remember! Yes, this kennel, 



ii8 LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 

this habitation of eternal weariness, is indeed my own. 
There is my senseless furniture, dusty and tattered; 
the dirty fireplace without a flame or an ember; the sad 
windows where the raindrops have traced runnels in the 
dust; the manuscripts, erased or unfinished; the alma- 
nac with the sinister days marked off with a pencil! 

And this perfume of another world, whereof I intoxi- 
cated myself with a so perfected sensitiveness; alas, Its 
place is taken by an odour of stale tobacco smoke, 
mingled with I know not what nauseating mustiness. 
Now one breathes here the rankness of desolation. 

In this narrow world, narrow and yet full of disgust, 
a single familiar object smiles at me: the phial of lauda- 
num: old and terrible love; like all loves, alas! fruitful 
in caresses and treacheries. 

Yes, Time has reappeared; Time reigns a monarch 
now; and with the hideous Ancient has returned all his 
demoniacal following of Memories, Regrets, Tremors, 
Fears, Dolours, Nightmares, and twittering nerves. 

I assure you that the seconds are strongly and sol- 
emnly accentuated now; and each, as it drips from the 
pendulum, says: ''I am Life: intolerable, implacable 
Life!" 

There is not a second in mortal life whose mission it 
is to bear good news: the good news that brings the 
inexplicable tear to the eye. 

Yes, Time reigns; Time has regained his brutal mas- 
tery. And he goads me, as though I were a steer, 
with his double goad: "Whoa, thou fool! Sweat, then, 
thou slave! Live on, thou damned!" 

AT ONE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING 

Alone at last! Nothing is to be heard but the rattle 
of a few tardy and tired-out cabs. There will be silence 



LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 119 

now, if not repose, for several hours at least. At last the 
tyranny of the human face has disappeared — I shall 
not suffer except alone. At last it is permitted me to 
refresh myself in a bath of shadows. But first a double 
turn of the key in the lock. It seems to me that this turn 
of the key will deepen my solitude and strengthen the 
barriers which actually separate me from the world. 

A horrible life and a horrible city! Let us run over 
the events of the day. I have seen several literary men; 
one of them wished to know if he could get to Russia by 
land (he seemed to have an idea that Russia was an 
island) ; I have disputed generously enough with the edi- 
tor of a review, who to each objection replied: "We take 
the part of respectable people," which implies that every 
other paper but his own is edited by a knave; I have 
saluted some twenty people, fifteen of them unknown to 
me; and shaken hands with a like number, without having 
taken the precaution of first buying gloves; I have been 
driven to kill* time, during a shower, with a mountebank, 
who wanted me to design for^her a costume as Venusta; 
I have made my bow to a theatre manager, who said: 
"You will do well, perhaps, to interview Z; he is the 
heaviest, foolishest, and most celebrated of all my au- 
thors; with him perhaps you will be able to come to 
something. See him, and then we'll see." I have boasted 
(why?) of several villainous deeds I never committed, 
and indignantly denied certain shameful things I accom- 
plished with joy, certain misdeeds of fanfaronade, crimes 
of human respect; I have refused an easy favour to a 
friend and given a written recommendation to a perfect 
fool. Heavens! it's well ended. 

Discontented with myself and with everything and 
everybody else, I should be glad enough to redeem my- 
self and regain my self-respect in the silence and solitude. 

Souls of those whom I have loved, whom I have sung, 



120 LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 

fortify me; sustain me; drive away the lies and the cor- 
rupting vapours of this worid ; and Thou, Lord my God, 
accord me so much grace as shall produce some beautiful 
verse to prove to myself that I am not the last of men, 
that I am not inferior to those I despise. 

THE CONFITEOR OF THE ARTIST 

How penetrating is the end of an autumn day! Ah, 
yes, penetrating enough to be painful even ; for there are 
certain delicious sensations whose vagueness does not 
prevent them from being intense; and none more keen 
than the perception of the Infinite. He has a great de- 
light who drowns his gaze in the immensity of sky and 
sea. Solitude, silence, the incomparable chastity of the 
azure — a little sail trembling upon the horizon, by its 
very littleness and isolation imitating my irremediable 
existence — the melodious monotone of the surge — all 
these things thinking through me and I through them 
(for in the grandeur of the reverie the Ego is swiftly 
lost) ; they think, I say, but musically and picturesquely, 
without quibbles, without syllogisms, without deductions. 

These thoughts, as they arise in me or spring forth 
from external objects, soon become always too intense. 
The energy working within pleasure creates an uneasi- 
ness, a positive suffering. My nerves are too tense to 
give other than clamouring and dolorous vibrations. 

And now the profundity of the sky dismays me; its 
limpidity exasperates me. The insensibility of the sea, 
the immutability of the spectacle, revolt me. Ah, must 
one eternally suffer, for ever be a fugitive from Beauty? 

Nature, pitiless enchantress, ever-victorious rival, leave 
me! Tempt my desires and my pride no more. The con- 
templation of Beauty is a duel where the artist screams 
with terror before being vanquished. 



LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 121 

THE THYRSUS 
To Franz Liszt 

What is a thyrsus? According to the moral and poeti- 
cal sense, it is a sacerdotal emblem in the hand of the 
priests or priestesses celebrating the divinity of whom 
they are the interpreters and servants. But physically it 
is no more than a baton, a purp staff, a hop-pole, a vine- 
prop; dry, straight, and hard. Around this baton, in 
capricious meanderings, stems and flowers twine and 
wanton; these, sinuous and fugitive; those, hanging like 
bells or inverted cups. And an astonishing complexity 
disengages itself from this complexity of tender or bril- 
liant lines and colours. Would not one suppose that the 
curved line and the spiral pay their court to the straight 
line, and twine about in a mute adoration? Would not 
one say that all these delicate corollae, all these calices, 
explosions of odours and colours, execute a mystical 
dance around the hieratic staff? And what imprudent 
mortal will dare to decide whether the flowers and the 
vine branches have been made for the baton, or whether 
the baton is not but a pretext to set forth the beauty of 
the vine branches and the flowers? 

The thyrsus is the symbol of your astonishing duality, 
O powerful and venerated master, dear bacchanal of a 
mysterious- and impassioned Beauty. ' Never a nymph 
excited by the mysterious Dionysius shook her thyrsus 
over the heads of her companions with as much energy 
as your genius trembles in the hearts of your brothers. 
The baton is your will: erect, firm, unshakeable; the 
flowers are the wanderings of your fancy around it: the 
feminine element encircling the masculine with her illu- 
sive dance. Straight line and arabesque — intention and 



122 LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 

expression — the rigidity of the will and the suppleness 
of the word — a variety of means united for a single pur- 
pose — the all-powerful and indivisible amalgam that is 
genius — what analyst will have the detestable courage to 
divide or to separate you? 

Dear Liszt, across the fogs, beyond the flowers, in 
towns where the pianos chant your glory, where the print- 
ing-house translates your wisdom; in whatever place 
you be, in the splendour of the Eternal City or among 
the fogs of the dreamy towns that Cambrinus consoles; 
improvising rituals of delight or ineffable pain, or giving 
to paper your abstruse meditations; singer of eternal 
pleasure and pain, philosopher, poet, and artist, I offer 
you the salutation of immortality! 

THE MARKSMAN 

As the carriage traversed the wood he bade the driver 
draw up in the neighbourhood of a shooting gallery, say- 
ing that he would like to have a few shots to kill time. 
Is not the slaying of the monster Time the most ordinary 
and legitimate occupation of man? — So he gallantly of- 
fered his hand to his dear, adorable, and execrable wife; 
the mysterious woman to whom he owed so many pleas- 
ures, so many pains, and perhaps also a great part of his 
genius. 

Several bullets went wide of the proposed mark, one 
of them flew far into the heavens, and as the charming 
creature laughed deliriously, mocking the clumsiness of 
her husband, he turned to her brusquely and said: "Ob- 
serve that doll yonder, to the right, with its nose in the 
air, and with so haughty an appearance. Very well, dear 
angel, / will imagine to myself that it is you!" 

He closed both eyes and pulled the trigger. The doll 
-was neatly decapitated. 



LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 123 

Then, bending towards his dear, adorable, and ex- 
ecrable wife, his inevitable and pitiless muse, he kissed 
her respectfully upon the hand, and added, "Ah, dear 
angel, how I thank you for my skill!" 

THE SHOOTING-RANGE AND THE CEMETERY 

"Cemetery View Inn" — "A queer sign," said our 
traveller to himself; "but it raises a thirst! Certainly 
the keeper of this inn appreciates Horace and the poet 
pupils of Epicurus. Perhaps he even apprehends the 
profound philosophy of those old Egyptians who had no 
feast without its skeleton, or some emblem of life's brev- 
ity." 

He entered: drank a glass of beer in presence of the 
tombs; and slowly smoked a cigar. Then, his phantasy 
driving him, he went down into the cemetery, where the 
grass was so tall and inviting; so brilliant in the sun- 
shine. 

The light and heat, indeed, were so furiously intense 
that one had said the drunken sun wallowed upon a 
carpet of flowers that had fattened upon the corruption 
beneath. 

The air was heavy with vivid rumours of life — the life 
of things infinitely small — and broken at intervals by 
the crackling of shots from a neighbouring shooting- 
range, that exploded with a sound as of champagne corks 
to the burden of a hollow symphony. 

And then, beneath a sun which scorched the brain, 
and in that atmosphere charged with the ardent perfume 
of death, he heard a voice whispering out of the tomb 
where he sat. And this voice said: "Accursed be your 
rifles and targets, you turbulent living ones, who care 
so little for the dead in their divine repose! Accursed be 
your ambitions and calculations, importunate mortals 



124 LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 

who study the arts of slaughter near the sanctuary of 
Death himself! Did you but know how easy the prize 
to win, how facile the end to reach, and how all save 
Death is naught, not so greatly would you fatigue your- 
selves, O ye laborious alive; nor would you so often vex 
the slumber of them that long ago reached the End — the 
only true end of life detestable! " 

THE DESIRE TO PAINT 

Unhappy perhaps is the man, but happy the artist, 
who is torn with this desire. 

I burn to paint a certain woman who has appeared to 
me so rarely, and so swiftly fled away, like some beauti- 
ful, regrettable thing the traveller must leave behind him 
in the night. It is already long since I saw hep. 

She is beautiful, and more than beautiful: she is over- 
powering. The colour black preponderates in her; all 
that she inspires is nocturnal and profound. Her eyes 
are two caverns where mystery vaguely stirs and gleams ; 
her glance illuminates like a ray of light; it is an explo- 
sion in the darkness. 

I would compare her to a black sun if one could con- 
ceive of a dark star overthrowing light and happiness. 
But it is the moon that she makes one dream of most 
readily; the moon, who has without doubt touched her 
with her own influence ; not the white moon of the idylls, 
who resembles a cold bride, but the sinister and intoxi- 
cating moon suspended in the depths of a stormy night, 
among the driven clouds; not the discreet peaceful moon 
who visits the dreams of pure men, but the moon torn 
from the sky, conquered and revolted, that the witches of 
ThessaJy hardly constrain to dance upon the terrified 
grass. 

Her small brow is the habitation of a tenacious will 



LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 125 

and the love of prey. And below this inquiet face, whose 
mobile nostrils breathe in the unknown and the im- 
possible, glitters, with an unspeakable grace, the smile 
of a large mouth; white, red, and delicious; a mouth 
that makes one dream of the miracle of some superb 
flower unclosing in a volcanic land. 

There are women who inspire one with the desire to 
woo them and win them ; but she makes one wish to die 
slowly beneath her steady gaze. 

THE GLASS-VENDOR 

THERE»are some natures purely contemplative and an- 
tipathetic to action, who nevertheless, under a mysterious 
and inexplicable impulse, sometimes act with a rapidity 
of which they would have believed themselves incapable. 
Such a one is he who, fearing to find some new vexation 
awaiting him at his lodgings, prowls about in a cowardly 
fashion before the door without daring to enter; such a 
one is he who keeps a letter fifteen days without opening 
it, or only makes up his mind at the end of six months 
to undertake a journey that has been a necessity for a 
year past. Such beings sometimes feel themselves pre- 
cipitately thrust towards action, like an arrow from a 
bow. 

The novelist and the physician, who profess to know 
all things, yet cannot explain whence comes this sudden 
and delirious energy to indolent and voluptuous souls; 
nor how, incapable of accomplishing the simplest and 
most necessary things, they are at some certain moment 
of time possessed by a superabundant hardihood which 
enables them to execute the most absurd and even the 
most dangerous acts. 

One of my friends, the most harmless dreamer that 
ever lived, at one time set fire to a forest, in order to 



1^6 LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 

ascertain, as he said, whether the flames take hold with 
the easiness that is commonly affirmed. His experiment 
failed ten times running, on the eleventh it succeeded 
only too well. 

Another lit a cigar by the side of a powder barrel, in 
order to see, to know, to tempt Destiny, for a jest, to 
have the pleasure of suspense, for no reason at all, out of 
caprice, out of idleness. This is a kind of energy that 
springs from weariness and reverie; and those in whom 
it manifests so stubbornly are in general, as I have said, 
the most indolent and dreamy beings. 

Another so timid that he must cast down his eyes 
before the gaze of any man, and summon all his poor 
will before he dare enter a cafe or pass the pay-box of a 
theatre, where the ticket-seller seems, in his eyes, in- 
vested with all the majesty of Minos, Mcus, and Rhada- 
manthus, will at times throw himself upon the neck of 
some old man whom he sees in the street, and embrace 
him with enthusiasm in sight of an astonished crowd. 
Why? Because — because this countenance is irresistibly 
attractive to him? Perhaps; but it is more legitimate to 
suppose that he himself does not know why. 

I have been more than once a victim to these crises 
and outbreaks which give us cause to believe that evil- 
meaning demons* slip into us, to make us the ignorant 
accomplices of their most absurd desires. One morning 
I arose in a sullen mood, very sad, and tired of idleness, 
and thrust as it seemed to me to the doing of some great 
thing, some brilliant act — and then, alas, I opened the 
window. ♦ 

(I beg you to observe that in some people the spirit of 
mystification is not the result of labour or combination, 
but rather of a fortuitous inspiration which would par- 
take, were it not for the strength of the feeling, of the 
mood called hysterical by the physician and satanic by 



LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 127 

those who think a little more profoundly than the physi« 
cian; the mood which thrusts us unresisting to a multi' 
tude of dangerous and inconvenient acts.) 

The first person I noticed in the street was a glass- 
vendor whose shrill and discordant cry mounted up to 
me through the heavy, dull atmosphere of Paris. It 
would have been else impossible to account for the sud- 
den and despotic hatred of this poor man that came 
upon me. 

"Hello, there!" I cried, and bade him ascend. Mean- 
while I reflected, not without' gaiety, that as my room 
was on the sixth landing, and the stairway very narrow, 
the man would have some difficulty in ascending, and in 
many a place would break off the corners of his fragile 
merchandise. 

At length he appeared. I examined all his glasses 
with curiosity, and then said to him: "What, have you 
no coloured glasses? Glasses of rose and crimson and 
blue, magical glasses, glasses of Paradise? You are 
insolent. You dare to walk in mean streets when you 
have no glasses that would make one see beauty in life?" 
And I hurried him briskly to the staircase, which he 
staggered down, grumbling. 

I went on to the balcony and caught up a little flower- 
pot, and when the man appeared in the doorway beneath 
I let fall my engine of war perpendicularly upon the edge 
of his pack, so that it was upset by the shock and all his 
poor walking fortune broken to bits. It made a noise 
like a palace of crystal shattered by lightning. Mad 
with my folly, I cried furiously after him: "The life 
beautiful! the life beautiful!" 

Such nervous pleasantries are not without peril; often 
enough one pays dearly for them. But what matters an 
eternity of damnation to him who has found in one 
second an eternity of enjoyment? 



128 LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 

THE WIDOWS 

Vauvenargues says that in public gardens there axe 
alleys haunted principally by thwarted ambition, by un- 
fortunate inventors, by aborted glories and broken hearts, 
and by all those tumultuous and contracted souls in 
whom the last sighs of the storm mutter yet again, and 
who thus betake themselves far from the insolent and 
joyous eyes of the well-to-do. These shadowy retreats 
are the rendezvous of life's cripples. 

To such places above all others do the poet and philos- 
opher direct their avid conjectures. They find there an 
unfailing pasturage, for if there is one place they dis- 
dain to visit it is, as I have already hinted, the place of 
the joy of the rich, A turmoil in the void has no attrac- 
tions for them. On the contrary, they feel themselves 
irresistibly drawn towards all that is feeble, ruined, sor- 
rowing, and bereft. 

An experienced eye is never deceived. In these rigid 
and dejected lineaments; in these eyes, wan and hollow, 
or bright with the last fading gleams of the combat 
against fate ; in these numerous profound wrinkles and in 
the slow and troubled gait, the eye of experience de- 
ciphers unnumbered legends of mistaken devotion, of un- 
rewarded effort, of hunger and cold humbly and silently 
supported. 

Have you not at times seen widows sitting on the 
deserted benches? Poor widows, I mean. Whether in 
mourning or not they are easily recognised. Moreover, 
there is always something wanting in the mourning of 
the poor; a lack of harmony which but renders it the 
more heart-breaking. It is forced to be niggardly in its 
show of grief. They are the rich who exhibit a full com- 
plement of sorrow. 



LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE , 129 

Who is the saddest and most saddening of widows: 
she who leads by the hand a child who cannot share her 
reveries, or she who is quite alone? I do not know. . . . 
It happened that I once followed for several long hours 
an aged and afflicted woman of this kind: rigid and 
erect, wrapped in a little worn shawl, she carried in all 
her being the pride of stoicism. 

She was evidently condemned by her absolute loneli- 
ness to the habits of an ancient celibacy; and the mascu- 
line characters of her habits added to their austerity a 
piquant mysteriousness. In what miserable cafe she 
dines I know not, nor in what manner. I followed her 
to a reading-room, and for a long time watched her read- 
ing the papers, her active eyes, that once burned with 
tears, seeking for news of a powerful and personal in- 
terest. 

At length, in the afternoon, under a charming au- 
tumnal sky, one of those skies that let fall hosts of 
memories and regrets, she seated herself remotely in a 
garden, to listen, far from the crowd, to one of the 
regimental bands whose music gratifies the people of 
Paris. This was without doubt the small debauch of the 
innocent old woman (or the purified old woman), the 
well-earned consolation for another of the burdensome 
days without a friend, without conversation, without joy, 
without a confidant, that God had allowed to fall upon 
her perhaps for many years past — three hundred and 
sixty-five times a year! 

Yet one more: 

I can .never prevent myself from throwing a glance, 
if not sympathetic at least full of curiosity, over the 
crowd of outcasts who press around the enclosure of a 
public concert. From the orchestra, across the night, 
float songs of fete, of triumph, or of pleasure. The 
dresses of the women sweep and shimmer; glances pass; 



130 LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 

the well-to-do, tired with doing nothing, saunter about 
and make indolent pretence of listening to the music. 
Here are only the rich, the happy; here is nothing that 
does not inspire or exhale the pleasure of being alive, 
except the aspect of the mob that presses against the 
outer barrier yonder, catching gratis, at the will of the 
wind, a tatter of music, and watching the glittering fur- 
nace within. 

There is a reflection of the joy of the rich deep in the 
eyes of the poor that is always interesting. But to-day, 
beyond this people dressed in blouses and calico, I saw 
one whose nobility was in striking contrast with all the 
surrounding triviality. She was a tall, majestic woman, 
and so imperious in all her air that I cannot remember 
having seen the like in the collections of the aristocratic 
beauties of the past. A perfume of exalted virtue eman- 
ated from all her being. Her face, sad and worn, was 
in perfect keeping with the deep mourning in which 
she was dressed. She also, like the plebeians she mingled 
with and did not see, looked upon the luminous world 
with a profound eye, and listened with a toss of her 
head. 

It was a strange vision. "Most certainly," I said to 
myself, "this poverty, if poverty it be, ought not to ad- 
mit of any sordid economy; so noble a face answers for 
that. Why then does she remain in surroundings with 
which she is so strikingly in contrast?" 

But in curiously passing near her I was able to divine 
the reason. The tall widow held by the hand a child 
dressed like herself in black. Modest as was the price 
of entry, this price perhaps sufficed to pay for some of 
the needs of the little being, or even more, for a super- 
fluity, a toy. 

She will return on foot, dreaming and meditating — and 
alone, always alone, for the child is turbulent and selfish, 



LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 131 

without gentleness or patience, and cannot become, any 
more than another animal, a dog or a cat, the confidant 
of solitary griefs. 



THE TEMPTATIONS; OR, EROS, PLUTUS, AND 
GLORY 

Last night two superb Satans and a She-devil not less 
extraordinary ascended the mysterious stairway by which 
Hell gains access to the frailty of sleeping man, and 
communes with him in secret. These three postured 
gloriously before me, as though they had been upon a 
stage — and a sulphurous splendour emanated from these 
beings who so disengaged themselves from the opaque 
heart of the night. They bore with them so proud a 
presence, and so full of mastery, that at first I took 
them for three of the true Gods. 

The first Satan, by his face, was a creature of doubtful 
sex. The softness of an ancient Bacchus shone in the 
lines of his body. His beautiful languorous eyes, of a 
tenebrous and indefinite colour, were like violets still 
laden with the heavy tears of the storm; his slightly- 
parted lips were like heated censers, from whence ex- 
haled the sweet savour of many perfumes; and each time 
he breathed, exotic insects drew, as they fluttered, 
strength from the ardours of his breath. 

Twined about his tunic of purple stuff, in the manner 
of a cincture, was an iridescent Serpent with lifted head 
and eyes like embers turned sleepily towards him. Phials 
full of sinister fluids, alternating with shining knives and 
instruments of surgery, hung from this living girdle. He 
held in his right hand a flagon containing a luminous red 
fluid, and inscribed with a legend in these singular words: 



132 LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 

'''drink of this my blood: a perfect restorative"; 

and in his left hand held a violin that without doubt 
served to sing his pleasures and pains, and to spread 
abroad the contagion of his folly upon the nights of the 
Sabbath. 

From rings upon his delicate ankles trailed a broken 
chain of gold, and when the burden of this caused him 
to bend his eyes towards the earth, he would contemplate 
with vanity the nails of his feet, as brilliant and polished 
as well-wrought jewels. 

He looked at me with eyes inconsolably heart-broken 
and giving forth an insidious intoxication, and cried in a 
chanting voice: "If thou wilt, if thou wilt, I will make 
thee an overlord of souls; thou shalt be master of living 
matter more perfectly than the sculptor is master of his 
clay; thou shalt taste the pleasure, reborn without end, 
of obliterating thyself in the self of another, and of lur- 
ing other souls to lose themselves in thine." 

But I replied to him: "I thank thee. I only gain 
from this venture, then, beings of no more worth than 
my poor self? Though remembrance brings me shame 
indeed, I would forget nothing; and even before I rec- 
ognised thee, thou ancient monster, thy mysterious cut- 
lery, thy equivocal phials, and the chain that imprisons 
thy feet, were symbols showing clearly enough the in- 
convenience of thy friendship. Keep thy gifts." 

The second Satan had neither the air at once tragical 
and smiling, the lovely insinuating ways, nor the delicate 
and scented beauty of the first. A gigantic man, with a 
coarse, eyeless face, his heavy paunch overhung his hips 
and was gilded and pictured, like a tattooing, with a 
crowd of little moving figures which represented the un- 
numbered forms of universal misery. There were little 
sinew-shrunken men who hung themselves willingly from 



LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 133 

nails; there were meagre gnomes, deformed and under- 
sized, whose beseeching eyes begged an alms even more 
eloquently than their trembling hands; there were old 
mothers who nursed clinging abortions at their pendent 
breasts. And many others, even more surprising. 

This heavy Satan beat with his fist upon his immense 
belly, from whence came a loud and resounding metallic 
clangour, which died away in a sighing made by many 
human voices. And he smiled unrestrainedly, showing 
his broken teeth — the imbecile smile of a man who has 
dined too freely. Then the creature said to me: 

"I can give thee that which gets all, which is worth 
all, which takes the place of all." And he tapped his 
monstrous paunch, whence came a sonorous echo as the 
commentary to his obscene speech. I turned away with 
disgust and replied: "I need no man's misery to bring 
me happiness; nor will I have the sad wealth of all the 
misfortunes pictured upon thy skin as upon a tapestry." 

As for the She-devil, I should lie if I denied that at 
first I found in her a certain strange charm, which to 
define I can but compare to the charm of certain beauti- 
ful women past their first youth, who yet seem to age no 
more, whose beauty keeps something of the penetrating 
magic of ruins. She had an air at once imperious and 
sordid, and her eyes, though heavy, held a certain power 
of fascination. I was struck most by her voice, wherein 
I found the remembrance of the most delicious contralti, 
as well as a little of the hoarseness of a throat continually 
laved with brandy. 

"Wouldst thou know my power?" said the charming 
and paradoxical voice of the false goddess. "Then 
listen." And she put to her mouth a gigantic trumpet, 
enribboned, like a mirliton, with the titles of all the 
newspapers in the world; and through this trumpet she 
cried my name so that it rolled through space with the 



134 LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE 

sound of a hundred thousand thunders, and came re- 
echoing back to me from the farthest planet. 

"Devil!" cried I, half tempted, "that at least is worth 
something." But it vaguely struck me, upon examining 
the seductive virago more attentively, that I had seen 
her clinking glasses with certain drolls of my acquaint- 
ance, and her blare of brass carried to my ears I know 
not what memory of a fanfare prostituted. 

So I replied, with all disdain: "Get thee hence! I 
know better than wed the light o' love of them that I 
will not name." 

Truly, I had the right to be proud of a so courageous 
renunciation. But unfortunately I awoke, and all my 
courage left me. "In truth," I said, "I must have been 
very deeply asleep indeed to have had such scruples. Ah, 
if they would but return while I am awake, I would not 
be so delicate." 

So I invoked the three in a loud voice, offering to 
dishonour myself as often as necessary to obtain their 
favours; but I had without doubt too deeply offended 
them, for they have never returned. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 
Translated by F. P. Sturm 



THE DANCE OF DEATH 

Carrying bouquet, and handkerchief, and gloves, 
Proud of her height as when she lived, she moves 
With all the careless and high-stepping grace. 
And the extravagant courtesan's thin face. 

Was slimmer waist e'er in a ball-room wooed? 
Her floating robe, in royal amplitude. 
Falls in deep folds around a dry foot, shod 
With a bright flower-like shoe that gems the sod. 

The swarms that hum about her collar-bones 
As the lascivious streams caress the stones. 
Conceal from every scornful jest that flies. 
Her gloomy beauty; and her fathomless eyes 

Are made of shade and void ; with flowery sprays 
Her skull is wreathed artistically, and sways. 
Feeble and weak, on her frail vertebrae. 
O charm of nothing decked in folly! they 

Who laugh and name you a Caricature, 
They see not, they whom flesh and blood allure, 
The nameless grace of every bleached, bare bone, 
That is most dear to me, tall skeleton! 

Come you to trouble with your potent sneer 
The feast of Life! or are you driven here, 
To Pleasure's Sabbath, by dead lusts that stir 
And goad your moving corpse on with a spur? 
137 



138 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

Or do you hope, when sing the violins, 
And the pale candle-flame lights up our sins, 
To drive some mocking nightmare far apart. 
And cool the flame hell lighted in your heart?. 

Fathomless well of fault and foolishness! 
Eternal alembic of antique distress! 
Still o'er the curved, white trellis of your sides 
The sateless, wandering serpent curls and glides. 

And truth to tell, I fear lest you should find, 
Among us here, no lover to your mind ; 
Which of these hearts beat for the smile you gave? 
The charms of horror please none but the brave. 

Your eyes' black gulf, where awful broodings stir, 
Brings giddiness; the prudent reveller 
Sees, while a horror grips him from beneath. 
The eternal smile of thirty-two white teeth. 

For he who has not folded in his arms 
A skeleton, nor fed on graveyard charms, 
Recks not of furbelow, or paint, or scent, 
When Horror comes the way that Beauty went. 

O irresistible, with fleshless face. 
Say to these dancers in their dazzled race: 
"Proud lovers with the paint above your bones. 
Ye shall taste death, musk-scented skeletons! 

Withered Antinous, dandies with plump faces, 
Ye varnished cadavers, and grey Lovelaces, 
Ye go to lands unknown and void of breath, 
Drawn by the rumour of the Dance of Death. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 139 

From Seine's cold quays to Ganges' burning stream, 
The mortal troupes dance onward in a dream; 
They do not see, within the opened sky, 
The Angel's sinister trumpet raised on high. 

In every clime and under every sun, 
Death laughs at ye, mad mortals, as ye run; 
And oft perfumes herself with myrrh, like ye; 
And mingles with your madness, irony 1" 



THE BEACONS 

Rubens, oblivious garden of indolence. 

Pillow of cool flesh where no man dreams of love, 

Where life flows forth in troubled opulence, 
As airs in heaven and seas in ocean move. 

Leonard da Vinci, sombre and fathomless glass, 
Where lovely angels with calm lips that smile. 

Heavy with mystery, in the shadow pass. 
Among the ice and pines that guard some isle. 

Rembrandt, sad hospital that a murmuring fills. 
Where one tall crucifix hangs on the walls, 

Where every tear-drowlned prayer some woe distils, 
And one cold, wintry ray obliquely falls. 

Strong Michelangelo, a vague far place 
Where mingle Christs with pagan Hercules; 

Thin phantoms of the great through twilight pace, 
And tear their ^roud with clenched hands void of 
ease. 



140 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

The fighter's anger, the faun's impudence, 
Thou makest of all these a lovely thing; 

Proud heart, sick body, mind's magnificence: 
PuGET, the convict's melancholy king. 

Watteau, the carnival of illustrious hearts. 

Fluttering like moths upon the wings of chance; 

Bright lustres light the silk that flames and darts. 
And pour down folly on the whirling dance. 

Goya, a nightmare full of things unknown; 

The foetus witches broil on Sabbath night; 
Old women at the mirror; children lone 

Who tempt old demons with their limbs delight. 

Delacroix, lake of blood ill angels haunt. 
Where ever-green, o'ershadowing woods arise; 

Under the surly heaven strange fanfares chaunt 
And pass, like one of Weber's strangled sighs. 

And malediction, blasphemy and groan, 

Ecstasies, cries, Te Deums, and tears of brine, 

Are echoes through a thousand labyrinths flown; 
For mortal hearts an opiate divine; 

A shout cried by a thousand sentinels. 
An order from a thousand bugles tossed, 

A beacon o'er a thousand citadels, 

A call to huntsmen in deep woodlands lost. 

It is the mightiest witness that could rise 
To prove our dignity, O Lord, to .Thee; 

This sob that rolls from age to age, and dies 
Upon the verge of Thy Eternity! 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 141 

THE SADNESS OF THE MOON 

The Moon more indolently dreams to-night 
Than a fair woman on her couch at rest, 
Caressing, with a hand distraught and light, 
Before she sleeps, the contour of her breast. 

Upon her silken avalanche of down. 
Dying she breathes a long and swooning sigh; 
And watches the white visions past her flown. 
Which rise like blossoms to the azure sky. 

And when, at times, wrapped in her languor deep, 
Earthward she lets a furtive tear-drop flow, 
Some pious poet, enemy of sleep. 

Takes in his hollow hand the tear of snow 
Whence gleams of iris and of opal start. 
And hides it from the Sun, deep in his heart. 



THE BALCONY 

Mother of memories, mistress of mistresses, 
O thou, my pleasure, thou, all my desire, 

Thou shalt recall the beauty of caresses, 
The charm of evenings by the gentle fire. 

Mother of memories, mistress of mistresses I 

The eves illumined by the burning coal. 

The balcony where veiled rose-vapour clings — 

How soft your breast was then, how sweet your soul I 
Ah, and we said imperishable things. 

Those eves illumined by the burning coal. 



142 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

Lovely the suns were in those twilights warm, 

And space profound, and strong life's pulsing flood, 

In bending o'er you, queen of every charm, 

I thought I breathed the perfume in your blood. 

The suns were beauteous in those twilights warm. 

The film of night flowed round and over us, 
And my eyes in the dark did your eyes meet; 

I drank your breath, ah! sweet and poisonous, 
And in my hands fraternal slept your feet — 

Night, like a film, flowed round and over us. 

I can recall those happy days forgot. 

And see, with head bowed on your knees, my past. 
Your languid beauties now would move me not 

Did not your gentle heart and body cast 
The old spell of those happy days forgot. 

Can vows and perfumes, kisses infinite. 
Be reborn from the gulf we cannot sound; 

As rise to heaven suns once again made bright 
After being plunged in deep seas and profound? 

Ah, vows and perfumes, kisses infinite! 

THE SICK MUSE 

Poor Muse, alas, what ail's thee, then, to-day? 
Thy hollow eyes with midnight visions bum, 
Upon thy brow in alternation play. 
Folly and Horror, cold and taciturn. 

Have the green lemure and the goblin red, 
Poured on thee love and terror from their urn? 
Or with despotic hand the nightmare dread 
Deep plunged thee in some fabulous Mintume? 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 143 

Would that thy breast where so deep thoughts arise, 
Breathed forth a healthful perfume with thy sighs ; 
Would that thy Christian blood ran wave by wave 

In rhythmic sounds the antique numbers gave, 
When Phoebus shared his alternating reign 
With mighty Pan, lord of the ripening grain. 

THE VENAL MUSE 

Muse of my heart, lover of palaces, 

When January comes with wind and sleet, 

During the snowy eve's long wearinesses, 
Will there be fire to warm thy violet feet? 

Wilt thou reanimate thy marble shoulders 

In the moon-beams that through the window fly? 

Or when thy purse dries up, thy palace moulders, 
Reap the far star-gold of the vaulted sky? 

For thou, to keep thy body to thy soul. 
Must swing a censer, wear a holy stole. 
And chaunt Te Deums with unbelief between. 

Or, like a starving mountebank, expose 
Thy beauty and thy tear-drowned smile to those 
Who wait thy jests to drive away thy spleen. 

THE EVIL MONK 

The ancient cloisters on their lofty walls 
Had holy Truth in painted frescoes shown, 

And, seeing these, the pious in those halls 
Felt their cold, lone austereness less alone. 



144 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

At that time when Christ's seed flowered all around, 
More than one monk, forgotten in his hour, 

Taking for studio the burial-ground. 

Glorified Death with simple faith and power. 

And my soul is a sepulchre where I, 
111 cenobite, have spent eternity: 

On the vile cloister walls no pictures rise. 

O when may I cast off this weariness, 
And make the pageant of my old distress 

For these hands labour, pleasure for these eyes? 



THE TEMPTATION 

The Demon, in my chamber high. 
This morning came to visit me. 

And, thinking he would find some fault, 
He whispered: "I would know of thee 

Among the many lovely things 
That make the magic of her face. 

Among the beauties, black and rose. 
That make her body's charm and grace. 

Which is most fair?" Thou didst reply 
To the Abhorred, O soul of mine: 

"No single beauty is the best 
When she is all one flower divine. 

When all things charm me I ignore 
Which one alone brings most delight; 

She shines before me like the dawn. 
And she consoles me like the night. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 145 

The harmony is far too great, 

That governs all her body fair. 
For impotence to analyse 

And say which note is sweetest there. 

O mystic metamorphosis! 

My senses into one sense flow — 
Her voice makes perfume when she speaks, 

Her breath is music faint and low! " 



THE IRREPARABLE 

Can we suppress the old Remorse 

Who bends our heart beneath his stroke, 
Who feeds, as worms feed on the corse, 

Or as the acorn on the oak? 
Can we suppress the old Remorse? 

Ah, in what philtre, wine, or spell, 
May we drown this our ancient foe, 

Destructive glutton, .gorging well, 
Patient as the ants, and slow? 

What wine, what philtre, or what spell? 

Tell it, enchantress, if you can, 

Tell me, with anguish overcast, 
Wounded, as a dying man. 

Beneath the swift hoofs hurrjdng past. 
Tell it, enchantress, if you can, 

To him the wolf already tears 

Who sees the carrion pinions wave 

This broken warrior who despairs 
To have a cross above his grave — 

This wretch the wolf already tears. 



146 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

Can one illume a leaden sky, 
Or tear apart the shadowy veil 

Thicker than pitch, no star on high, 
Not one funereal glimmer pale? 

Can one illume a leaden sky? 

Hope lit the windows of the Inn, 
But now that shining flame is dead; 

And how shall martyred pilgrims win 
Along the moonless road they tread? 

Satan has darkened all the Inn! 

Witch, do you love accursed hearts? 

Say, do you know the reprobate? 
Know you Remorse, whose venomed darts 

Make souls the targets for their hate? 
Witch, do you know accursed hearts? 

The Might-have-been with tooth accursed 
Gnaws at the piteous souls of men. 

The deep foundations suffer first. 
And all the structure crumbles then 

Beneath the bitter tooth accursed. 



n 



Often, when seated at the play. 

And sonorous music lights the stage, 

I see the frail hand of a Fay 

With magic dawn illume the rage 

Of the dark sky. Oft at the play 

A being made of gauze and fire 
Casts to the earth a Demon great. 

And my heart, whence all hopes expire, 
Is like a stage where I await, 

In vain, the Fay with wings of fire! 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 147 



A FORMER LIFE 

Long since, I lived beneath vast porticoes, 
By many ocean-sunsets tinged and fired, 
Where mighty pillars, in majestic rows, 
Seemed like basaltic caves when day expired. 

The rolling surge that mirrored all the skies 
Mingled its music, turbulent and rich, 
Solemn and mystic, with the colours which 
The setting sun reflected in my eyes. 

And there I lived amid voluptuous calms, 

In splendours of blue sky and wandering wave. 

Tended by many a naked, perfumed slave. 

Who fanned my languid brow with waving palms. 
They were my slaves — the only care they had 
To know what secret grief had made me sad. 



DON JUAN IN HADES 

When Juan sought the subterranean flood, 
And paid his obolus on the Stygian shore, 

Charon, the proud and sombre beggar, stood 
With one strong, vengeful hand on either oar. 

With open robes and bodies agonised. 

Lost women writhed beneath that darkling sky; 

There were sounds as of victims sacrificed: 
Behind him all the dark was one long cry. 



148 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

And Sganarelle, with laughter, claimed his pledge; 

Don Luis, with trembling finger in the air, 
Showed to the souls who wandered in the sedge 

The evil son who scorned his hoary hair. 

Shivering with woe, chaste Elvira the while, 
Near him untrue to all but her till now. 

Seemed to beseech him for one farewell smile 
Lit with the sweetness of the first soft vow. 

And clad in armour, a tall man of stone 

Held firm the helm, and clove the gloomy flood ; 

But, staring at the vessel's track alone. 
Bent on his sword the unmoved hero stood. 



THE LIVING FLAME 

They pass before me, these Eyes full of light. 
Eyes made magnetic by some angel wise; 
The holy brothers pass before my sight. 
And cast their diamond fires in my dim eyes. 

They keep me from all sin and error grave. 
They set me in the path whence Beauty came; 
They are my servants, and I am their slave, 
And all my soul obeys the living flame. 

Beautiful Eyes that gleam with mystic light 
As candles lighted at full noon ; the sun 
Dims not your flame phantastical and bright. 

You sing the dawn; they celebrate life done; 
Marching you chaunt my soul's awakening hymn, 
Stars that no sun has ever made grow dim! 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 149 

CORRESPONDENCES 

In Nature's temple living pillars rise, 

And words are murmured none have understood, 
And man must wander through a tangled wood 

Of symbols watching him with friendly eyes. 

As long-drawn echoes heard far-off and dim 
Mingle to one deep sound and fade away; 
Vast as the night and brilliant as the day, 

Colour and sound and perfume speak to him. 

Some perfumes are as fragrant as a child, 

Sweet as the sound of hautboys, meadow-green; 
Others, corrupted, rich, exultant, wild. 

Have all the expansion of things infinite : 
As amber, incense, musk, and benzoin, 
Which sing the sense's and the soul's delight. 



THE FLASK 

There are some powerful odours that can pass 

Out of the stoppered flagon; even glass 

To them is porous. Oft when some old box 

Brought from the East is opened and the locks 

And hinges creak and cry; or in a press 

In some deserted house, where the sharp stress 

Of odours old and dusty fills the brain ; 

An ancient flask is brought to light again. 

And forth the ghosts of long-dead odours creep. 

There, softly trembling in the shadows, sleep 

A thousand thoughts, funereal chrysalides. 



150 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

Phantoms of old the folding darkness hides, 

Who make faint flutterings as their wings unfold, 

Rose-washed and azure-tinted, shot with gold. 



A memory that brings languor flutters here: 
The fainting eyelids droop, and giddy Fear 
Thrusts with both hands the soul towards the pit 
Where, like a Lazarus from his winding-sheet. 
Arises from the gulf of sleep a ghost 
Of an old passion, long since loved and lost. 
So I, when vanished from man's memory 
Deep in some dark and sombre chest I lie, 
An empty flagon they have cast aside, 
Broken and soiled, the dust upon my pride, 
Will be your shroud, beloved pestilence! 
The witness of your might and virulence. 
Sweet poison mixed by angels ; bitter cup 
Of life and death my heart has drunken up! 



REVERSIBILITY 

Angel of gaiety, have you tasted grief? 

Shame and remorse and sobs and weary spite. 
And the vague terrors of the fearful night 

That crush the heart up like a crumpled leaf? 

Angel of gaiety, have you tasted grief? 

Angel of kindness, have you tasted hate? 

With hands clenched in the shade and tears of gall, 
When Vengeance beats her hellish battle-call, 

And makes herself the captain of our fate, 

Angel of kindness, have you tasted hate? 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 151 

Angel of health, did ever you know pain, 
Which like an exile trails his tired footfalls 
The cold length of the white infirmary walls, 

With lips compressed, seeking the sun in vain? 

Angel of health, did ever you know pain? 

Angel of beauty, do you wrinkles know? 

Know you the fear of age, the torment vile 

Of reading secret horror in the smile 
Of eyes your eyes have loved since long ago? 
Angel of beauty, do you wrinkles know? 

Angel of happiness, and joy, and light. 

Old David would have asked for youth afresh 
From the pure touch of your enchanted flesh; 

I but implore your prayers to aid my plight, 

Angel of happiness, and joy, and light. 



THE EYES OF BEAUTY 

You are a sky of autumn, pale and rose; 
But all the sea of sadness in my blood 
Surges, and ebbing, leaves my lips morose, 
Salt with the memory of the bitter flood. 

In vain your hand glides my faint bosom o'er, 
That which you seek, beloved, is desecrate 
By woman's tooth and talon; ah, no more 
Seek in me for a heart which those dogs ate. 

It is a ruin where the jackals rest. 

And rend and tear and glut themselves and slay- 

A perfume swims about your naked breast! 



152 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

Beauty, hard scourge of spirits, have your way! 
With flame-like eyes that at bright feasts have flared 
Burn up these tatters that the beasts have spared! 



SONNET OF AUTUMN 

They say to me, thy clear and crystal eyes: 

"Why dost thou love me so, strange lover mine?" 

Be sweet, be still! My heart and soul despise 
All save that antique brute-like faith of thine; 

And will not bare the secret of their shame 
To thee whose hand soothes me to slumbers long, 

Nor their black legend write for thee in flame! 
Passion I hate, a spirit does me wrong. 



Let us love gently. Love, from his retreat. 
Ambushed and shadowy, bends his fatal bow, 
And I too well his ancient arrows know: 



Crime, horror, folly, O pale Marguerite, 
Thou art as I, a bright sun fallen low, 
O my so white, my so cold Marguerite. 



THE REMORSE OF THE DEAD 

O SHADOWY Beauty mine, when thou shalt sleep 
In the deep heart of a black marble tomb; 

When thou for mansion and for bower shalt keep 
Only one rainy cave of hollow gloom; 



THE FLOWERS OF. EVIL 153 

And when the stone upon thy trembling breast, 
And on thy straight sweet body's supple grace, 

Crushes thy will and keeps thy heart at rest, 
And holds those feet from their adventurous race; 

Then the deep grave, who shares my reverie, 
(For the deep grave is aye the poet's friend) 
During long nights when sleep is far from thee, 

Shall whisper: "Ah, thou didst not comprehend 
The dead wept thus, thou woman frail and weak" — • 
And like remorse the worm shall gnaw thy cheek. 



THE GHOST 

Softly as brown-eyed Angels rove 
I will return to thy alcove. 
And glide upon the night to thee. 
Treading the shadows silently. 

And I will give to thee, my own, 
Kisses as icy as the moon. 
And the caresses of a snake 
Cold gliding in the thorny brake. 

And when returns the livid morn 
Thou shalt find all my place forlorn 
And chilly, till the falling night. 

Others would rule by tenderness 

Over thy life and youthfulness, 

But I would conquer thee by fright! 



154 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

TO A MADONNA 

(An Ex-Voto in the Spanish taste.) 

Madonna, mistress, I would build for thee 

An altar deep in the sad soul of me; 

And in the darkest corner of my heart, 

From mortal hop)es and mocking eyes apart, 

Carve of enamelled blue and gold a shrine 

For thee to .stand erect in, Image divine! 

And with a mighty Crown thou shalt be crowned 

Wrought of the gold of my smooth Verse, set round 

With starry crystal rhymes; and I will make, 

O mortal maid, a Mantle for thy sake,- 

And weave it of my jealousy, a gown 

Heavy, barbaric, stiff, and weighted down 

With my distrust, and broider round the hem 

Not pearls, but all my tears in place of them. 

And then thy wavering, trembling robe shall be 

All the desires that rise and fall in me 

From mountain-peaks to valleys of repose. 

Kissing thy lovely body's white and rose. 

For thy humiliated feet divine, 

Of my Respect I'll make thee Slippers fine 

Which, prisoning them within a gentle fold. 

Shall keep their imprint like a faithful mould. 

And if my art, unwearying and discreet. 

Can make no Moon of Silver for thy feet 

To have for Footstool, then thy heel shall rest 

Upon the snake that gnaws within my breast. 

Victorious Queen of whom our hope is bom ! 

And thou shalt trample down and make a scorn 

Of the vile reptile swollen up with hate. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 155 

And thou shalt see my thoughts, all consecrate, 
Like candles set before thy flower-strewn shrine, 
O Queen of Virgins, and the taper-shine 
Shall glimmer star-like in the vault of blue, 
With eyes of flame for ever watching you. 
While all the love and worship in my sense 
Will be sweet smoke of myrrh and frankincense. 
Ceaselesely up to thee, white peak of snow, 
My stormy spirit will in vapours go! 

And last, to make thy drama^ all complete, 

That love and cruelty may mix and meet, 

I, thy remorseful torturer, will take 

All the Seven Deadly Sins, and from them make 

In darkest joy. Seven Knives, cruel-edged and keen, 

And like a juggler choosing, O my Queen, 

That spot profound whence love and mercy start, 

I'll plunge them all within thy panting heart! 



THE SKY 

Where'er he be, on water or on land, 
Under pale suns or climes that flames enfold; 

One of Christ's own, or of Cythera's band, 
Shadowy beggar or Croesus rich with gold; 

Citizen, peasant, student, tramp; whate'er 

His little brain may be, alive or dead ; 
Man knows the fear of mystery ever)rwhere, 
» And peeps, with trembling glances, overhead. 

The heaven above? A strangling cavern wall; 
The lighted ceiling of a music-hall 
Where every actor treads a bloody soil — 



156 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

The hermit's hope; the terror of the sot; 
The sky: the black lid of the mighty pot 
Where the vast human generations boill 



SPLEEN 

I'm like some king in whose corrupted veins 

Flows aged blood; who rules a land of rains; 

Who, young in years, is old in all distress; 

Who flees good counsel to find weariness 

Among his dogs and playthings, who is stirred 

Neither by hunting-hound nor hunting-bird; 

Whose weary face emotion moves no more 

E'en when his people die before his door. 

His favourite Jester's most fantastic wile 

Upon that sick, cruel face can raise no smile ; 

The courtly dames, to whom all kings are good, 

Can lighten this young skeleton's dull mood 

No more with shameless toilets. In his gloom 

Even his lilied bed becomes a tomb. 

The sage who takes his gold essays in vain 

To purge away the old corrupted strain, 

His baths of blood, that in the days of old 

The Romans used when their hot blood grew cold, 

Will never warm this dead man's bloodless pains, 

For green Lethean water fills his veins. 



THE OWLS 

Under the overhanging yews. 
The dark owls sit in solemn state. 
Like stranger gods; by twos and twos 
Their red eyes gleam. They meditate. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 157 

Motionless thus they sit and dream 
Until that melancholy hour 
When, with the sun's last fading gleam, 
The nightly shades assume their power. 



From their still attitude the wise 
Will learn with terror to despise 
All tumult, movement, and unrest; 

For he who follows eVery shade, 
Carries the memory in his breast. 
Of each unhappy journey made. 



BIEN LOIN DTCI 

Here is the chamber consecrate. 
Wherein this maiden delicate, 
And enigmatically sedate, 

Fans herself while the moments creep. 

Upon her cushions half-asleep, 

And hears the fountains plash and weep. 

Dorothy's chamber undefiled. 
The winds and waters sing afar 
Their song of sighing strange and wild 
To lull to sleep the petted child. 

From head to foot with subtle care, 
Slaves have perfumed her delicate skin 
With odorous oils and benzoin. 
And flowers faint in a corner there. 



158 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 



CONTEMPLATION 

Thou, O my Grief, be wise and tranquil still, 
The eve is thine which even now drops down, 
To carry peace or care to human will, 
And in a misty veil enfolds the town. 

While the vile mortals of the multitude, 
By pleasure, cruel tormentor, goaded on, 
Gather remorseful blossoms in light mood — 
Grief, place thy hand in mine, let us be gone 

Far from them. Lo, see how the vanished years, 
In robes outworn lean over heaven's rim; 
And from the water, smiling through her tears. 

Remorse arises, and the sun grows dim; 
And in the east, her long shroud trailing light, 
List, O my grief, the gentle steps of Night. 



TO A BROWN BEGGAR-MAID 

White maiden with the russet hair, 
Whose garments, through their holes, declare 
That poverty is part of you. 
And beauty too. 

To me, a sorry bard and mean. 
Your youthful beauty, frail and lean. 
With summer freckles here and there, 
Is sweet and fair. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 159 

Your sabots tread the roads of chance, 
And not one queen of old romance 
Carried her velvet shoes and lace 
With half your grace. 

In place of tatters far too short 
Let the proud garments worn at Court 
Fall down with rustling fold and pleat 
About your feet; 

In place of stockings, worn and old, 
Let a keen dagger all of gold 
Gleam in your garter for the eyes 
Of roues wise; 

Let ribbons carelessly untied 
Reveal to us the radiant pride 
Of your white bosom purer far 
Than any star; 

Let your white arms uncovered shine, 
Polished and smooth and half divine; 
And let your elfish fingers chase 
With riotous grace 

The purest pearls that softly glow. 
The sweetest sonnets of Belleau, 
Offered by gallants ere they fight 
For your delight; 

And many fawning rhymers who 
Inscribe their first thin book to you 
Will contemplate upon the stair 
Your slipper fair; 



i6o THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

And many a page who plays at cards, 
And many lords and many bards, 
Will watch your going forth, and bum 
For your return; 

And you will count before your glass 
More kisses than the lily has; 
And more than one Valois will sigh 
When you pass by. 

But meanwhile you are on the tramp. 
Begging your living in the damp, 
Wandering mean streets and alleys o'er, 
From door to door; 

And shilling bangles in a shop 
Cause you with eager eyes to stop. 
And I, alas, have not a sou 
To give to you. 

Then go, with no more ornament. 
Pearl, diamond, or subtle scent, 
Than your own fragile naked grace 
And lovely face. / 

THE SWAN 
I 

Andromache, I think of you! The stream. 
The poor, sad mirror where in bygone days 
Shone all the majesty of your widowed grief, 
The lying Simois flooded by your tears. 
Made all my fertile memory blossom forth 
As I passed by the new-built Carrousel. 
Old Paris is no more (a town, alas. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL i6i 

Changes more quickly than man's heart may change); 
Yet in my mind I still can see the booths; 
The heaps of brick and rough-hewn capitals; 
The grass; the stones all over-green with moss; 
The debris, and the square-set heaps of tiles. 

There a menagerie was once outspread; 
And there I saw, one morning at the hour 
When toil awakes beneath the cold, clear sky, 
And the road roars upon the silent air, 
A swan who had escaped his- cage, and walked 
On the dry pavement with his webby feet, 
And trailed his spotless plumage on the ground. 
And near a waterless stream the piteous swan 
Opened his beak, and bathing in the dust 
His nervous wings, he cried (his heart the while 
Filled with a vision of his own fair lake) : 
"O water, when then wilt thou come in rain? 
Lightning, when wilt thou glitter?" 

Sometimes yet 
I see the hapless bird — strange, fatal myth — 
Like him that Ovid writes of, lifting up 
Unto the cruelly blue, ironic heavens. 
With stretched, convulsive neck a thirsty face, 
As though he sent reproaches up to God! 

f 

n 

Paris may change ; my melancholy is fixed. 
New palaces, and scaffoldings, and blocks, 
And suburbs old, are symbols all to me 
Whose memories are as heavy as a stone. 
And so, before the Louvre, to vex my soul, 
The image came of my majestic swan 
With his mad gestures, foolish and sublime, 



i62 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

As of an exile whom one great desire 

Gnaws with no truce. And then I thought of you, 

Andromache! torn from your hero's arms; 

Beneath the hand of Pyrrhus in his pride; 

Bent o'er an empty tomb in ecstasy; 

Widow of Hector — wife of Helenus! 

And of the negress, wan and phthisical, 

Tramping the mud, and with her haggard eyes 

Seeking beyond the mighty walls of fog 

The absent palm-trees of proud Africa; 

Of all who lose that which they never find; 

Of all who drink of tears; all whom grey grief 

Gives suck to as the kindly wolf gave suck; 

Of meagre orphans who like blossoms fade. 

And one old Memory like a crying horn 

Sounds through the forest where my soul is lost . s 

I think of sailors on some isle forgotten; 

Of captives; vanquished . . . and of many more. 

THE SEVEN OLD MEN 

SWARMING city, city full of dreams, 
Where in full day the spectre walks and speaks; 
Mighty colossus, in your narrow veins 

My story flows as flows the rising sap. 

One morn, disputing with my tired soul, 
And like a hero stiffening all my nerves, 

1 trod a suburb shaken by the jar 

Of rolling wheels, where the fog magnified 

The houses either side of that sad street, 

So they seemed like two wharves the ebbing flood 

Leaves desolate by the river-side. A mist. 

Unclean and yellow, inundated space — 

A scene that would have pleased an actor's soul. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 163 

Then suddenly an aged man, whose rags 
Were yellow as the rainy sky, whose looks 
Should have brought alms in floods upon his head. 
Without the misery gleaming in his eye. 
Appeared before me; and his pupils seemed 
To have been washed with gall; the bitter frost 
Sharpened his glance; and from his chin a beard 
Sword-stiff and ragged, Judas-like stuck forth. 
He was not bent but broken: his backbone 
Made a so true right angle with his legs, 
That, as he walked, the ta,pping stick which gave 
The finish to the picture, made him seem 
Like some infirm and stumbling quadruped 
Or a three-legged Jew. Through snow and mud 
He walked with troubled and uncertain gait, 
As though his sabots trod upon the dead. 
Indifferent and hostile to the world. 



His double followed him: tatters and stick 
And back and eye and beard, all were the same; 
Out of the same Hell, indistinguishable, 
These centenarian twins, these spectres odd. 
Trod the same pace toward some end unknown. 
To what fell complot was I then exposed? 
Humiliated by what evil chance? 
For as the minutes one by one went by 
Seven times I saw this sinister old man 
Repeat his image there before my eyes! 

Let him who smiles at my inquietude, 
Who never trembled at a fear like mine, 
Know that in their decrepitude's despite 
These seven old hideous monsters had the mien 
Of beings immortal. 



i64 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

Then, I thought, must I, 
Undying, contemplate the awful eighth; 
Inexorable, fatal, and ironic double; 
Disgusting Phoenix, father of himself 
And his own son? In terror then I turned 
My back upon the infernal band, and fled 
To my own place, and closed my door; distraught 
And like a drunkard who sees all things twice, 
With feverish troubled spirit, chilly and sick, 
Wounded by mystery and absurdity! 

In vain my reason tried to cross the bar, 
The whirling storm but drove her back again; 
And my soul tossed, and tossed, an outworn wreck, 
Mastless, upon a monstrous, shoreless sea. 

THE LITTLE OLD WOMEN 



Deep in the tortuous folds of ancient towns. 

Where all, even horror, to enchantment turns, 

I watch, obedient to my fatal mood, 

For the decrepit, strange and charming beings, 

The dislocated monsters that of old 

Were lovely women — Lais or Eponine! 

Hunchbacked and broken, crooked though they be, 

Let us still love them, for they still have souls. 

They creep along wrapped in their chilly rags, 

Beneath the whipping of the wicked wind, 

They tremble when an omnibus rolls by. 

And at their sides, a relic of the past, 

A little flower-embroidered satchel hangs. 

They trot about, most like to marionettes; 

They drag themselves, as does a wounded beast; 

Or dance unwillingly as a clapping bell 

Where hangs and swings a demon without pity. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 165 

Though they be broken they have piercing eyes, 
That shine like pools where water sleeps at night; 
The astonished and divine eyes of a child 
Who laughs at all that glitters in the world. 
Have you not seen that most old women's shrouds 
Are little like the shroud of a dead child? 
Wise Death, in token of his happy whim. 
Wraps old and young in one enfolding sheet. 
And when I see a phantom, frail and wan. 
Traverse the swarming picture that is Paris, 
It ever seems as though the delicate thing 
Trod with soft steps towards a cradle new. 
And then I wonder, seeing the twisted form. 
How many times must workmen change the shape 
Of boxes where at length such limbs are laid? 
These eyes are wells brimmed with a million tears; 
Crucibles where the cooling metal pales — 
Mysterious eyes that are strong charms to him 
Whose life-long nurse has been austere Disaster. 

n 

The love-sick vestal of the old "Frasciti"; 
Priestess of Thalia, alas! whose name 
Only the prompter knows and he is dead; 
Bygone celebrities that in bygone days 
The Tivoli o'ershadowed in their bloom; 
All charm me; yet among these beings frail ' 
Three, turning pain to honey-sweetness, said 
To the Devotion that had lent them wings: 
"Lift me, O powerful Hippogriffe, to the skies" — 
One by her country to despair was driven; 
One by her husband overwhelmed with grief; 
One wounded by her child. Madonna-like; 
Each could have made a river with her tears. 



i66 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 



in 

Oft have I followed one of these old women, 
One among others, when the falling sun 
Reddened the heavens with a crimson wound — 
Pensive, apart, she rested on a bench 
To hear the brazen music of the band, 
Played by the soldiers in the public park 
To pour some courage into citizens' hearts, 
On golden eves when all the world revives. 
Proud and erect she drank the music in. 
The lively and the warlike call to arms; 
Her eyes blinked like an ancient eagle's eyes; 
Her forehead seemed to await the laurel crown I 



IV 

Thus you do wander, uncomplaining Stoics, 

Through all the chaos of the living town: 

Mothers with bleeding hearts, saints, courtesans, 

Whose names of yore were on the lips of all; 

Who were all glory and all grace, and now 

None know you; and the brutish drunkard stops, 

Insulting you with his derisive love; 

And cowardly urchins call behind your back. 

Ashamed of living, withered shadows all. 

With fear-bowed backs you creep beside the walls, 

And none salute you, destined to loneliness! 

Refuse of Time ripe for Eternity! 

But I, who watch you tenderly afar. 

With unquiet eyes on your uncertain steps. 

As though I were your father, I — O wonder! — 

Unknown to you taste secret, hidden joy. 

I see your maiden passions bud and bloom. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 167 

Sombre or luminous, and your lost days 

Unroll before me while my heart enjoys 

All your old vices, and my soul expands 

To all the virtues that have once been yours. 

Ruined! and my sisters! O congenerate hearts, 

Octogenarian Eves o'er whom is stretched 

God's awful claw, where will you be to-morrow? 



A MADRIGAL OF SORROW 

What do I care though you be wise? 

Be sad, be beautiful; your tears 
But add one more charm to your eyes, 
As streams to valleys where they rise; 

And fairer every flower appears 

After the storm. I love you most 
When joy has fled your brow downcast; 

When your heart is in horror lost. 

And o'er your present like a ghost 
Floats the dark shadow of the past. 

I love you when the teardrop flows, 

Hotter than blood, from your large eye; 
When I would hush you to repose 
Your heavy pain breaks forth and grows 
Into a loud and tortured cry. 

And then, voluptuousness divine! 

Delicious ritual and profound! 
I drink in every sob like wine, 
And dream that in your deep heart shine 

The pearls wherein your eyes were drowned. 



i68 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

I know your heart, which overflows 
With outworn loves long cast aside, 

Still like a furnace flames and glows, 
. And you within your breast enclose 
A damned soul's unbending pride; 

But till your dreams without release 

Reflect the leaping flames of hell; 
Till in a nightmare without cease 
You dream of poison to bring peace, 

And love cold steel and powder well; 

And tremble at each opened door, 

And feel for every man distrust, 
And shudder at the striking hour — 
Till then you have not felt the power 

Of Irresistible Disgust. 

My queen, my slave, whose love is fear, 

When you awaken shuddering. 
Until that awful hour be here, 
You cannot say at midnight drear: 

"I am your equal, O my King!" 

MIST AND RAIN 

Autumns and winters, springs of mire and rain, 
Seasons of sleep, I sing your praises loud. 
For thus I love to wrap my heart and brain 
In some dim tomb beneath a vapoury shroud 

In the wide plain where revels the cold wind. 
Through long nights when the weathercock whirls round. 
More free than in warm summer day my mind 
Lifts wide her raven pinions from the ground. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 169 

Unto a heart filled with funereal things 

That since old days hoar frosts have gathered on, . 

Naught is more sweet, O pallid, queenly springs, 

Than the long pageant of your shadows wan, 

Unless it be on moonless eves to weep 

On some chance bed and rock our griefs to sleep. 



SUNSET 

Fair is the sun when first he flames above, 
Flinging his joy down in a happy beam ; 

And happy he who can salute with love 
The sunset far more glorious than a dream. 

Flower, stream, and furrow! — I have seen them all 
In the sun's eye swoon like one trembling heart- 
Though it be late let us with speed depart 
To catch at least one last ray ere it fall I 

But I pursue the fading god in vain, 
For conquering Night makes firm her dark domain. 
Mist and gloom fall, and terrors glide between. 

And graveyard odours in the shadow swim, 
And my faint footsteps on the marsh's rim, 
Bruise the cold snail and crawling toad unseen. 

THE CORPSE 

Remember, my Beloved, what thing we met 

By the roadside on that sweet summer day; 
There on a grassy couch with pebbles set, 
A loathsome body lay. 



170 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

The wanton limbs stiff-stretched into the air, 

Steaming with exhalations vile and dank, 
In ruthless cynic fashion had laid bare 
The swollen side and flank. 



On this decay the sun shone hot from heaven 

As though with chemic heat to broil and bum. 
And unto Nature all that she had given 
A hundredfold return. 

The sky smiled down upon the horror there 

As on a flower that opens to the day; 
So awful an infection smote the air, 
Almost you swooned away. 

The swarming flies hummed on the putrid side, 

Whence poured the maggots in a darkling stream. 
That ran along these tatters of life's pride 
With a liquescent gleam. 

And like a wave the maggots rose and fell, 

The murmuring flies swirled round in busy strife: 
It seemed as though a vague breath came to swell 
And multiply with life 

The hideous corpse. From all this living world 

A music as of wind and water ran, 
Or as of grain in rhythmic motion swirled 
By the swift winnower's fan. 

And then the vague forms like a dream died out. 

Or like some distant scene that slowly falls 
Upon the artist's canvas, that with doubt 
He only half recalls. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 171 

A homeless dog behind the boulders lay 

And watched us both with angry eyes forlorn, 
Waiting a chance to come and take away 
The morsel she had torn. 

And you, even you, will be like this drear thing, 

A vile infection man may not endure; 
Star that I yearn to! Sun that lights my spring! 
O passionate and pure! 

Yes, such will you be, Queen of every grace! 
When the last sacramental words are said; 
And beneath grass and flowers that lovely face 
Moulders among the dead. 

Then, O Beloved, whisper to the worm 

That crawls up to devour you with a kiss, 
That I still guard in memory the dear form 
Of love that comes to this! 



AN ALLEGORY 

Here is a woman, richly clad and fair, 

Who in her wine dips her long, heavy hair; 

Love's claws, and that sharp poison which is sin,' 

Are dulled against the granite of her skin. 

Death she defies, Debauch she smiles upon, 

For their sharp scythe-like talons every one 

Pass by her in their all-destructive play; 

Leaving her beauty till a later day. 

Goddess she walks; sultana in her leisure; 

She has Mohammed's faith that heaven is pleasure, 

And bids all men forget the world's alaVms 

Upon her breast, between her open arms. 



172 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

She knows, and she believes, this sterile maid, 
Without whom the world's onward dream would fade, 
That bodily beauty is the supreme gift 
Which may from every sin the terror lift. 
Hell she ignores, and Purgatory defies ; 
And when black Night shall roll before her eyes, 
She will look straight in Death's grim face forlorn, 
Without remorse or hate — as one new-born. 

THE ACCURSED 

Like pensive herds at rest upon the sands, 
These to the sea-horizons turn their eyes; 

Out of their folded feet and clinging hands 
Bitter sharp tremblings and soft languors rise. 

Some tread the thicket by the babbling stream. 
Their hearts with untold secrets ill at ease; 

Calling the lover of their childhood's dream, 
They wound the green bark of the shooting trees. 

Others like sisters wander, grave and slow, 
Among the rocks haunted by spectres thin. 

Where Antony saw as larvae surge and flow 
The veined bare breasts that tempted him to sin. 

Some, when the resinous torch of burning wood 
Flares in lost pagan caverns dark and deep. 

Call thee to quench the fever in their blood, 
Bacchus, who singest old remorse to sleep! 

Then there are those the scapular bedights, 

Whose long white vestments hide the whip's red stain, 

Who mix, in sombre woods on lonely nights. 
The foam of pleasure with the tears of pain. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 173 

O virgins, demons, monsters, martyrs! ye 

Who scorn whatever actual appears; 
Saints, satyrs, seekers of Infinity, 

So full of cries, so full of bitter tears; 

Ye whom my soul has followed into hell, 

I love and pity, O sad sisters mine, 
Your thirsts unquenched, your pains no tongue can tell, 

And your great hearts, those urns of love divine! 



LA BEATRICE 

In a burnt, ashen land, where no herb grew, 
I to the winds my cries of anguish threw; 
And in my thoughts, in that sad place apart, 
Pricked gently with the poignard o'er my heart. 
Then in full noon above my head a cloud 
Descended tempest-swollen, and a crowd 
Of wild, lascivious spirits huddled there. 
The cruel and curious demons of the air, 
Who coldly to consider me began; 
Then, as a crowd jeers some unhappy man, 
Exchanging gestures, winking with their eyes — • 
I heard a laughing and a whispering rise: 

"Let us at leisure contemplate this clown. 

This shadow of Hamlet aping Hamlet's frown. 

With wandering eyes and hair upon the wind. 

Is't not a pity that this empty mind. 

This tramp, this actor out of work, this droll. 

Because he knows how to assume a role 

Should dream that eagles and insects, streams and woods, 

Stand still to hear him chaunt his dolorous moods? 

Even unto us, who made these ancient things. 

The fool his public lamentation sings." 



174 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

With pride as lofty as the towering cloud, 
I would have stilled these clamouring demons loud, 
And turned in scorn my sovereign head away 
Had I not seen — O sight to dim the day! — 
There in the middle of the troupe obscene 
The proud and peerless beauty of my Queen 1 
She laughed with them at all my dark distress, 
And gave to each in turn a vile caress. 



THE SOUL OF WINE 

One eve in the bottle sang the soul of wine: 

"Man, unto thee, dear disinherited, 
I sing a song of love and light divine — 

Prisoned in glass beneath my seals of red. 

"I know thou labourest on the hill of fire. 
In sweat and pain beneath a flaming sun. 

To give the life and soul my vines desire, 
And I am grateful for thy labours done. 

"For I find joys unnumbered when I lave 
The throat of man by travail long outworn. 

And his hot bosom is a sweeter grave 

Of sounder sleep than my cold caves forlorn. 

"Hearest thou not the echoing Sabbath sound? 

The hope that whispers in my trembling breast? 
Thy elbows on the table! gaze around; 

Glorify me with joy and be at rest. 

"To thy wife's eyes I'll bring their long-lost gleam, 
I'll bring back to thy child his strength and light, 

To him, life's fragile athlete I will seem ^ 

Rare oil that firms his muscles for the fight. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 175 

"I flow in man's heart as ambrosia flows; 

The grain the eternal Sower casts in the sod — 
From our first loves the first fair verse arose, 

Flower-like aspiring to the heavens and God!" 

THE WINE OF LOVERS 

Space rolls to-day her splendour round! 
Unbridled, spurless, without bound, 
Mount we upon the wings of wine 
For skies fantastic and divine! 

Let us, like angels tortured by 
Some wild delirious phantasy, 
Follow the far-off mirage bom 
In the blue crystal of the mom. 

And gently balanced on the wing 
Of the wild whirlwind we will ride, 
Rejoicing with the joyous thing. 

My sister, floating side by side. 
Fly we unceasing whither gleams 
The distant heaven of my dreams. 

THE DEATH OF LOVERS 

There shall be couches whence faint odours rise, 
Divans like sepulchres, deep and profound; 

Strange flowers that bloomed beneath diviner skies 
The death-bed of our love shall breathe around. 

And guarding their last embers till the end, 
Our hearts shall be the torches of the shrine, 

And their two leaping flames shall fade and blend 
In the twin mirrors of your soul and mine. 



;i76 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

And through the eve of rose and mystic blue 
A beam of love shall pass from me to you, 
Like a long sigh charged with a last farewell; 

And later still an angel, flinging wide 

The gates, shall bring to life with joyful spell 

The tarnished mirrors and the flames that died. 



THE DEATH OF THE POOR 

Death is consoler and Death brings to life; 

The end of all, the solitary hope; 
We, drunk with Death's elixir, face the strife. 

Take heart, and mount till eve the weary slope. 

Across the storm, the hoar-frost, and the snow. 
Death on our dark horizon pulses clear; 

Death is the famous hostel we all know. 
Where we may rest and sleep and have good cheer. 

Death is an angel whose magnetic palms 
Bring dreams of ecstasy and slumberous calms 
To smooth the beds of naked men and poor. 

Death is the mystic granary of God; 

The poor man's purse; his fatherland of yore; 

The Gate that opens into heavens untrodl 

GYPSIES TRAVELLING 

The tribe prophetic with the eyes of fire 
Went forth last night; their little ones at rest 
Each on his mother's back, with his desire 
Set on the ready treasure of her breast. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 177 

Laden with shining arms the men-folk tread 
By the long wagons where their goods lie hidden; 
They watch the heaven with eyes grown wearied 
Of hopeless dreams that come to them unbidden. 

The grasshopper, from out his sandy screen, 
Watching them pass redoubles his shrill song; 
Dian, who loves them, makes the grass more green. 

And makes the rock run water for this throng 
Of ever-wandering ones Xvhose calm eyes see 
Familiar realms of darkness yet to be. 



FRANCISCO ME^ LAUDES 

Novis te cantabo chordis, 
O novelletum quod ludis 
In solitudine cordis. 

Esto sertis implicata, 

O fcemina delicata 

Per quam solvuntur peccata 

Sicut beneficum Lethe, 
Hauriam oscula de te, 
Quae imbuta es magnete. 

Quum vitiorum tempestas 
Turbabat omnes semitas, 
Apparuisti, Deltas, 

Velut Stella salutaris 

In naufragiis amaris . . . 

Suspendam cor tuis aris! 



178 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

Piscina plena virtutis, 
Fons aeternae juventutis, 
Labris vocem redde mutis! 

Quod erat spurcum, cremasti; 
Quod rudius, exaequasti; 
Quod debile, confirmastil 

In fame mea taberaa, 
In nocte mea lucema, 
Recte me semper guberna. 

Adde nunc vires viribus, 
Duke balneum suavibus, 
Unguentatum odoribus! 

Meos circa lumbos mica, 
O castitatis lorica, 
Aqua tincta seraphica; 

Patera gemmis corusca, 
Panis salsus, mollis esca, 
Divinum vinum, Francisca! 

A LANDSCAPE 

I WOULD, when I compose my solemn verse, 
Sleep near the heaven as do astrologers. 
Near the high bells, and with a dreaming mind 
Hear their calm hymns blown to me on the wind. 

Out of my tower, with chin upon my hands, 
I'll watch the singing, babbling humEin bands; 
And see clock-towers like spars against the sky, 
And heavens that bring thoughts of eternity; 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 179 

And softly, through the mist, will watch the birth 
Of stars in heaven and lamplight on the earth; 
The threads of smoke that rise above the town; 
The moon that pours her pale enchantment down. 

Seasons will pass till Autumn fades the rose; 
And when comes Winter with his weary snows, 
I'll shut the doors and window-casements tight, 
And build my faery palace in the night. 

Then I will dream of blue horizons deep; 
Of gardens where the marble fountains weep; 
Of kisses, and of ever-singing birds — 
A sinless Idyll built of innocent words. 

And Trouble, knocking at my window-pane 
And at my closet door, shall knock in vain; 
I will not heed him with his stealthy tread, 
Nor from my reverie uplift my head; 

For I will plunge deep in the pleasure still 
Of summoning the spring-time with my will, 
Drawing the sun out of my heart, and there 
With burning thoughts making a summer air. 



THE VOYAGE 
I 

The world is equal to the child's desire 

Who plays with pictures by his nursery fire — 

How vast the world by lamplight seems 1 How small 

When memory's eyes look back, remembering all! — 



i8o THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

One morning we set forth with thoughts aflame, 
Or heart o'erladen with desire or shame; 
And cradle, to the song of surge and breeze, 
Our own infinity on the finite seas. 

Some flee the memory of their childhood's home;' 
And others flee their fatherland; and some, 
Star-gazers drowned within a woman's eyes, 
Flee from the tyrant Circe's witcheries; 

And, lest they still be changed to beasts, take flight 
For the embrasured heavens, and space, and light. 
Till one by one the stains her kisses made 
In biting cold and burning sunlight fade. 

But the true voyagers are they who part 
From all they love because a wandering heart 
Drives them to fly the Fate they cannot fly; 
Whose call is ever "On! " — they know not why. 

Their thoughts are like the clouds that veil a star;" 
They dream of change as warriors dream of war; 
And strange wild wishes never twice the same: 
Desires no mortal man can give a name. 

n 

We are like whirling tops and rolling balls — ' 
For even when the sleepy night-time falls. 
Old Curiosity still thrusts us on. 
Like the cruel Angel who goads forth the sun. 

The end of fate fades ever through the air, 
And, being nowhere, may be anywhere 
Where a man runs, hope waking in his breast, 
For ever like a madman, seeking rest. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL i8i 

Our souls are wandering ships outwearied ; 
And one upon the bridge asks: "What's ahead?'* 
The topman's voice with an exultant sound 
Cries: "Love and Glory!" — then we run aground. 

Each isle the pilot signals when 'tis late, 
Is El Dorado, promised us by fate — 
Imagination, spite of her belief. 
Finds, in the light of dawn, a barren reef. 

Oh the poor seeker after lands that fleel 
Shall we not bind and cast into the sea 
This drunken sailor whose ecstatic mood 
Makes bitterer still the water's weary flood? 

Such is an old tramp wandering in the mire, 
Dreaming the paradise of his own desire, 
Discovering cities of enchanted sleep 
Where'er the light shines on a rubbish heap. 



in 

r 
Strange voyagers, what tales of noble deeds 
Deep in your dim sea- weary eyes one reads! 
Open the casket where your memories are, 
And show each jewel, fashioned from a star; 



For I would travel without sail or wind, 
And so, to lift the sorrow from my mind, 
Let your long memories of sea-days far fled 
Pass o'er my spirit like a sail outspread. 

What have you seen? 



i82 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

IV 

"We have seen waves and stars, 
And lost sea-beaches, and known many wars. 
And notwithstanding war and hope and fear, 
We were as weary there as we are here. 

"The lights that on the violet sea poured down, 
The suns that set behind some far-off town. 
Lit in our hearts the unquiet wish to fly 
Deep in the glimmering distance of the sky; 

"The loveliest countries that rich cities bless. 
Never contained the strange wild loveliness 
By fate and chance shaped from the floating cloud — ■ 
And we were always sorrowful and proud! 

"Desire from joy gains strength in weightier measure. 
Desire, old tree who draw'st thy sap from pleasure. 
Though thy bark thickens as the years pass by, 
Thine arduous branches rise towards the sky; 

"And wilt thou still grow taller, tree more fair 
Than the tall cypress? 

— ^Thus have we, with care, 
"Gathered some flowers to please your eager mood. 
Brothers who dream that distant things are good! 

"We have seen many a jewel-glimmering throne; 
And bowed to Idols when wild horns were blown 
In palaces whose faery pomp and gleam 
To your rich men would be a ruinous dream; 

"And robes that were a madness to the eyes; 

Women whose teeth and nails were stained with dyes; 

Wise jugglers round whose neck the serpent winds " 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 183 

V 
And then, and then what more? 

VI 

"0 childish minds! 

"Forget not that which we found everywhere, 
From top to bottom of the fatal stair, 
Above, beneath, around us and within. 
The weary pageant of immortal sin. 

"We have seen woman, stupid slave and proud, 
Before her own frail, foolish beauty bowed; 
And man, a greedy, cruel, lascivious fool, 
Slave of the slave, a ripple in a pool ; 
I 

"The martyrs groan, the headsman's merry mood; 
And banquets seasoned and perfumed with blood; 
Poison, that gives the tyrant's power the slip; 
And nations amorous of the brutal whip; 

"Many religions not unlike our own, 

All in full flight for heaven's resplendent throne; 

And Sanctity, seeking delight in pain. 

Like a sick man of his own sickness vain; 

"And mad mortality, drunk with its own power, 
As foolish now as in a bygone hour, 
Shouting, in presence of the tortured Christ: 
*I curse thee, mine own Image sacrificed.' 

"And silly monks in love with Lunacy, 
Fleeing the troops herded by destiny, 
Who seek for peace in opiate slumber furled — 
Such is the pageant of the rolling world!" 



i84 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 



vn 

O bitter knowledge that the wanderers gainl 
The world says our own age is little and vain ; 
For ever, yesterday, to-day, to-morrow, 
'Tis horror's oasis in the sands of sorrow. 

Must we depart? If you can rest, remain; 
Part, if you must. Some fly, some cower in vain, 
Hoping that Time, the grim and eager foe, 
Will pass them by; and some run to and fro 

Like the Apostles or the Wandering Jew; 
Go where they will, the Slayer goes there too! 
And there are some, and these are of the wise, 
Who die as soon as birth has lit their eyes. 

But when at length the Slayer treads us low. 
We will have hope and cry, " 'Tis time to go!" 
As when of old we parted for Cathay 
With wind-blown hair and eyes upon the bay. 

We will embark upon the Shadowy Sea, 

Like youthful wanderers for the first time free — 

Hear you the lovely and funereal voice 

That sings: O come all ye whose wandering joys 

Are set upon the scented Lotus flower, 

For here we sell the fruit's miraculous boon; 

Come ye and drink the sweet and sleepy power 

Of the enchanted, endless afternoon. 

vm 

O Death, old Captain, it is time, put forth! 
We have grown weary of the gloomy north; 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 185 

Though sea and sky are black as ink, lift saill 
Our hearts are full of light and will not fail. 

O pour thy sleepy poison in the cup! 
The fire within the heart so burns us up 
That we would wander Hell and Heaven through, 
Deep in the Unknown seeking something newt 



FROM THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 
Translated by W. J. Robertson 



BENEDICTION 

When, by the sovran will of Powers Eternal, 

The poet passed into this weary world, 
His mother, filled with fears and doubts infernal, 

Clenching her hands towards Heaven these curses 
hurled. 

— ^"Why rather did I not within me treasure 
"A knot of serpents than this thing of scorn? 

"Accursed be the night of fleeting pleasure 
"Whence in my womb this chastisement was borne! 

"Since thou hast chosen me to be the woman 
"Whose loathsome fruitfulness her husband shames, 

"Who may not cast aside this birth inhuman, 
"As one that flings love-tokens to the flames, 

"The hatred that on me thy vengeance launches 
"On this thwart creature I will pour in flood: 

"So twist the sapling that its withered branches 
"Shall never once put forth a cankered budt" 

Regorging thus the venom of her malice. 
And misconceiving thy decrees sublime. 

In deep Gehenna's gulf she fills the chalice 
Of torments destined to maternal crime. 

Yet, safely sheltered by his viewless angel. 
The Childe forsaken revels in the Sun; 
189 



190 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

And all his food and drink is an evangel 

Of nectared sweets, sent by the Heavenly One. 

He communes with the clouds, knows the wind's voices, 
And on his pilgrimage enchanted sings; 

Seeing how like the wild bird he rejoices 
The hovering Spirit weeps and folds his wings. 

All those he fain would love shrink back in terror, 

Or, boldened by his fearlessness elate. 
Seek to seduce him into sin and error, 

And flesh on him the fierceness of their hate. 

In bread and wine, wherewith his soul is nourished. 
They mix their ashes and foul spume impure; 

Lying they cast aside the things he cherished, 
And curse the chance that made his steps their lure. 

His spouse goes crying in the public places: 
"Since he doth choose my beauty to adore, 

"Aping those ancient idols Time defaces 
"I would regild my glory as of yore. 

"Nard, balm and myrrh shall tempt till he desires me 
"With blandishments, with dainties and with wine, 

"Laughing if in a heart that so admires me 
"I may usurp the sovranty divine 1 

"Until aweary of love's impious orgies, 

"Fastening on him my fingers firm and frail, 

"These claws, keen as the harpy's when she gorges, 
"Shall in the secret of his heart prevail. 

"Then, thrilled and trembling like a young bird captured, 
"The bleeding heart shall from his breast be torn; 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 191 

"To glut his maw my wanton hound, enraptured, 
"Shall see me fling it to the earth in scorn." 



Heavenward, where he beholds a throne resplendent, 
The poet lifts his hands, devout and proud, 

And the vast lightnings of a soul transcendent 
Veil from his gaze awhile the furious crowd: — 

"Blessed be thou, my God, that givest sorrow, 
"Sole remedy divine for things unclean, 

"Whence souls robust a healing virtue borrow, 
"That tempers them for sacred joys serene! 

"I know thou hast ordained in blissful regions 
"A place, a welcome in the festal bowers, 

"To call the poet with thy holy Legions, 
"Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers. 

"I know that Sorrow is the strength of Heaven, 
" 'Gainst which in vain strive ravenous Earth and Hell, 

"And that his crown must be of mysteries woven 
"Whereof all worlds and ages hold the spell. 

"But not antique Palmyra's buried treasure, 
"Pearls of the sea, rare metal, precious gem, 

"Though set by thine own hand could fill the measure 
"Of bieauty for his radiant diadem; 

"For this thy light alone, intense and tender, 
"Flows from the primal source of effluence pure, 

"Whereof all mortal eyes, though bright their splendour, 
"Are but the broken glass and glimpse obscure." 

Spleen et Ideal. 



192 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 



ILL LUCK 

To bear so vast a load of grief 

Thy courage, Sisyphus, I crave! 

My heart against the task is brave, 

But Art is long and Time is brief. 

Far from Fame's proud sepulchral arches, 
Towards a graveyard lone and dumb. 
My sad heart, like a muffled drum. 

Goes beating slow funereal marches. 

— Full many a shrouded jewel sleeps 
In dark oblivion, lost in deeps 

Unknown to pick or plummet's sound: 

Full many a weeping blossom flings 

Her perfume, sweet as secret things, 

In silent solitudes profound. 

Le Guignon. 



. " BEAUTY 

My face is a marmoreal dream, O mortals! 
And on my breast all men are bruised in turn. 
So moulded that the poet's love may bum 

Mute and eternal as the earth's cold portals. 

Throned like a Sphinx unveiled in the blue deep, 
A heart of snow my swan- white beauty muffles; 
I hate the line that undulates and ruffles: 

And never do I laugh and never weep. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 193 

The poets, prone beneath my presence towering 

With stately port of proudest obelisks, 
Worship with rites austere, their days devouring; 

For I have charms to keep their love, pure disks 
That make all things more beautiful and tender: 
My large eyes, radiant with eternal splendour! 

La Beaute. 

IDEAL LOVE 

No, never can these frail ephemeral creatures. 
The withered offspring of a worthless age, 

These buskined limbs, these false and painted features, 
The hunger of a heart like mine assuage. 

Leave to the laureate of sickly posies 

Gavami's hospital sylphs, a simpering choir 1 

Vainly I seek among those pallid roses 
One blossom that allures my red desire. 

Thou with my soul's abysmal dreams be blended, 
Lady Macbeth, in crime superb and splendid, 
A dream of ^Eschylus flowered in cold eclipse 

Of Northern suns! Thou, Night, inspire my passion, 
Calm child of Angelo, coiling in strange fashion 
Thy large limbs moulded for a Titan's lips! 

L'Ideal. 

HYMN TO BEAUTY 

Be thou from Hell upsprung or Heaven descended. 

Beauty! thy look demoniac and divine 
Pours good and evil things confusedly blended, 

And therefore art thou likened unto wine. 



194 ' THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

Thine eye with dawii is filled, with twilight dwindles, 
Like winds of night thou sprinklest perfumes mild; 

Thy kiss, that is a spell, the child's heart kindles, 
Thy mouth, a chalice, makes the man a child. 

Fallen from the stars or risen from gulfs of error, 
Fate dogs thy glamoured garments like a slave; 

With wanton hands thou scatterest joy and terror, 
And rulest over all, cold as the grave. 

Thou tramplest on the dead, scornful and cruel. 
Horror coils like an amulet round thine arms, 

Crime on thy superb bosom is a jewel 
That dances amorously among its charms. 

The dazzled moth that flies to thee, the candle. 
Shrivels and burns, blessing thy fatal flame; 

The lover that dies fawning o'er thy sandal 

Fondles his tomb and breathes the adored name. 

What if from Heaven or Hell thou com'st, immortal 
Beauty? O sphinx-like monster, since alone 

Thine eye, thy smile, thy hand opens the portal 
Of the Infinite I love and have not known. 

What if from God or Satan be the evangel? 

Thou my sole Queen! Witch of the velvet eyes! 
Since with thy fragrance, rhythm and light, O Angel I 

In a less hideous world time swiftlier flies. 

Hymne a la Beaute. 



EXOTIC FRAGRANCE 

When, with closed eyes in the warm autumn night, 
I breathe the fragrance of thy bosom bare, 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 195 

My dream unfurls a clime of loveliest air, 
Drenched in the fiery sun's unclouded light. 

An indolent island dowered with heaven's delight, 
Trees singular and fruits of savour rare, 
Men having sinewy frames robust and spare. 

And women whose clear eyes are wondrous bright. 

Led by thy fragrance to those shores I hail 

A charmed harbour thronged with mast and sail, 
Still wearied with the quivering sea's unrest; 

What time the scent of the green tamarinds 

That thrills the air and fills my swelling breast 
Blends with the mariners' song and the sea-winds. 

Parfum Exotique. 



XXVIII SONNET 

In undulant robes with nacreous sheen impearled 
She walks as in some stately saraband; 

Or like lithe snakes by sacred charmers curled 
In cadence wreathing on the slender wand. 

Calm as blue wastes of sky and desert sand 
That watch unmoved the sorrows of this world; 

With slow regardless sweep as on the strand 
The long swell of the woven sea-waves swirled. 

Her polished orbs are like a mystic gem, 
And, while this strange and symbolled being links 
The inviolate angel and the antique sphinx. 



196 THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 

Insphered in gold, steel, light and diadem 
The splendour of a lifeless star endows 
With clear cold majesty the barren spouse. 



MUSIC 

Launch me, O music, whither on the soundless 

Sea my star gleams pale! 
I beneath cloudy cope or rapt in boundless 

iEther set my sail; 

With breast outblown, swollen by the wind that urges 

Swelling sheets, I scale 
The summit of the wave whose vexed surges 

Night from me doth veil; 

A labouring vessel's passions in my pulses 

Thrill the shuddering sense; 
The wind that wafts, the tempest that convulses, 

O'er the gulf immense 
Swing me. — ^Anon flat calm and clearer air 

Glass my soul's despair! 

La Musique. 

THE SPIRITUAL DAWN 

When on some wallowing soul the roseate East 
Dawns with the Ideal that awakes and gnaws, 
By vengeful working of mysterious laws 

An angel rises in the drowsed beast. 

The inaccessible blue of the soul-sphere 
To him whose grovelling dream remorse doth gall 
Yawns wide as when the gulfs of space enthral. 

So, heavenly Goddess, Spirit pure and clear. 



THE FLOWERS OF EVIL 197 

Even on the reeking ruins of vile shame 
Thy rosy vision, beautiful and bright, 
For ever floats on my enlarged sight. 

Thus sunlight blackens the pale taper-flame; 
And thus is thy victorious phantom one, 
O soul of splendour, with the immortal Sun! 

L'AuBE Spirituelle. 



THE FLAWED BELL 

Bitter and sweet it is, in winter night, 

Hard by the flickering fire that smokes, to list 

While far-off memories rise in sad slow flight, 
With chimes that echo singing through the mist. 

O blessed be the bell whose vigorous throat, 
In spite of age alert, with strength unspent. 

Utters religiously his faithful note. 

Like an old warrior watching near the tent I 

My soul, alEis! is flawed, and when despair 
Would people with her songs the chill night-air 
Too oft they faint in hoarse enfeebled tones, 

As when a wounded man forgotten moans 
By the red pool, beneath a heap of dead. 
And dyiiig writhes in frenzy on his bed. 

La Cloche Felee. 



THREE POEMS FROM BAUDELAIRE 
Translated by Richard Herne Shepherd 



I 

A CARCASS 

Recall to mind the sight we saw, my soul, 
That soft, sweet summer day: 

Upon a bed of flints a carrion foul, 
Just as we tura'd the way 

Its legs erected, wanton-like, in air, 

Burning and sweating past. 
In unconcem'd and cynic sort laid bare 

To view its noisome breast. 

The sun lit up the rottenness with gold, 

To bake it well inclined, 
And give great Nature back a hundredfold 

All she together join'd. 

The sky regarded as the carcass proud 

Oped flower-like to the day; 
So strong the odour, on the grass you vow'd 

You thought to faint away. 

The flies the putrid belly buzz'd about, 
Whence black battalions throng 

Of maggots, like thick liquid flowing out 
The living rags along. 

201 



202 THREE POEMS FROM BAUDELAIRE 

And as a wave they mounted and went down, 

Or darted sparkling wide: 
As if the body, by a wild breath blown, 

Lived as it multiplied. 

From all this life a music strange there ran, 
Like wind and running burns: 

Or like the wheat a winnower in his fan 
With rhythmic movement turns. 

The forms wore off, and as a dream grew faint, 

An outline dimly shown. 
And which the artist finishes to paint 

From memory alone. 

Behind the rocks watch'd us with angry eye 

A bitch disturb 'd in theft. 
Waiting to take, till we had pass'd her by 

The morsel she had left. 

Yet you will be like that corruption too, 

Like that infection prove — 
Star of my eyes, sun of my nature, you, 

My angel and my love! 

Queen of the graces, you will even be so. 

When, the last ritual said, 
Beneath the grass and the fat flowers you go, 

To mould among the dead. 

Then, O my beauty, tell the insatiate worm, 
Who wastes you with his kiss, 

I have kept the godlike essence and the form 
Of perishable bliss! 



THREE POEMS FROM BAUDELAIRE 203 

II 

WEEPING AND WANDERING 

Say, Agatha, if at times your spirit turns 
Far from the black sea of the city's mud. 
To another ocean, where the splendour bums 
All blue, and clear, and deep as maidenhood? 
Say, Agatha, if your spirit thither turns? 

The boundless sea consoles the weary mind! 
What demon gave the sea — that chantress hoarse 
To the huge organ of the chiding wind — 
The function grand to rock us like a nurse? 
The boundless ocean soothes the jaded mindl 

O car and frigate, bear me far away. 

For here our tears moisten the very day. 

Is't true that Agatha's sad heart at times 

Says, far from sorrows, from remorse, from crimes, 

Remove me, car, and, frigate, bear away? 

O perfumed paradise, how far removed. 
Where 'neath a clear sky all is love and joy, 
Where all we love is worthy to be loved, 
And pleasure drowns the heart, but does not cloy. 
O perfumed paradise, so far removed! 

But the green paradise of childlike loves. 
The walks, the songs, the kisses, and the flowers, 
The violins dying behind the hills, the hours 
Of evening and the wine-flasks in the groves. 
But the green paradise of early loves, 



204 THREE POEMS FROM BAUDELAIRE 

The innocent paradise, full of stolen Joys, 
Is't farther off than ev'n the Indian main? 
Can we recall it with our plaintive cries, 
Or give it life, with silvery voice, again, 
The innocent paradise, full of furtive joys? 



in 

LESBOS 

Mother of Latin sports and Greek delights, 
Where kisses languishing or pleasureful, 
Warm as the suns, as the water-melons cool, 
Adorn the glorious days and sleepless nights. 
Mother of Latin sports and Greek delights. 

Lesbos, where kisses are as waterfalls 
That fearless into gulfs unfathom'd leap, 

Now run with sobs, now slip with gentle brawls, 
Stormy and secret, manifold and deep; 

Lesbos, where kisses are as waterfalls! 

Lesbos, where Phryne Phryne to her draws. 
Where ne'er a sigh did echoless expire. 
As Paphos' equal thee the stars admire. 

Nor Venus envies Sappho without cause! 

Lesbos, where Phryne Phr3nie to her draws, 

Lesbos, the land of warm and languorous nights, 
Where by their mirrors seeking sterile good, 

The girls with hollow eyes, in soft delights. 
Caress the ripe fruits of their womanhood, 

Lesbos, the land of warm and languorous nights. 



THREE POEMS FROM BAUDELAIRE 205 

Leave, leave old Plato's austere eye to frown; 

Pardon is thine for kisses' sweet excess, 
Queen of the land of amiable renown, 

And for exhaustless subtleties of bliss, 
Leave, leave old Plato's austere eye to frown. 

Pardon is' thine for the eternal pain 

That on the ambitious hearts for ever lies, 

Whom far from us the radiant smile could gain. 
Seen dimly on the verge of other skies; 

Pardon is thine for the eternal pain! 

Which of the gods will dare thy judge to be, 
And to condemn thy brow with labour pale. 
Not having balanced in his golden scale 

The flood of tears thy brooks pour'd in the sea? 

Which of the gods will dare thy judge to be? 

What boot the laws of just and of unjust? 

Great-hearted virgins, honour of the isles, 
Lo, your religion also is august. 

And love at hell and heaven together smiles I 
What boot the laws oof just and of unjust? 

For Lesbos chose me out from all my peers, 
To sing the secret of her maids in flower, 
Opening the mystery dark from childhood's hour 

Of frantic laughters, mix'd with sombre tears; 

For Lesbos chose me out from all my peers. 

And since I from Leucate's top survey, 
Like a sentinel with piercing eye and true. 

Watching for brig and frigate night and day. 
Whose distant outlines quiver in the blue, 

And since I from Leucate's top survey, 



2o6 THREE POEMS FROM BAUDELAIRE 

To learn if kind and merciful the sea, 

And midst the sobs that make the rock resound, 
Brings back some eve to pardoning Lesbos, free 

The worshipp'd corpse of Sappho, who made her bound 
To learn if kind and merciful the sea! 

Of her the man-like lover-poetess. 

In her sad pallor more than Venus fair! 

The azure eye yields to that black eye, where 

The cloudy circle tells of the distress 

Of her the man-like lover-poetess! 

Fairer than Venus risen on the world, 
Pouring the treasures of her aspect mild, 

The radiance of her fair white youth unfurl'd 
On Ocean old enchanted with his child; 

Fairer than Venus risen on the world. 

Of Sappho, who, blaspheming, died that day 
When trampling on the rite and sacred creed, 

She made her body fair the supreme prey 
Of one whose pride punish 'd the impious deed 

Of Sappho who, blaspheming, died that day. 

And since that time it is that Lesbos moans. 
And, spite the homage which the whole world pays. 

Is drunk each night with cries of pain and groans, 
Her desert shores unto the heavens do raise. 

And since that time it is that Lesbos moans! 



INTIMATE PAPERS FROM THE 
UNPUBLISHED WORKS OF BAUDELAIRE 

Translated by Joseph T. Shipley 



ROCKETS 
MY HEART LAID BARE 

The following pages (not included in the "complete" 
French edition) contain notes found after the death of 
Baudelaire; disconnected fragments; echoes; pistils of 
ideas, promising wondrous blossom, to which no pollen 
came. They epitomize the moral and intellectual life 
of the artist. In his own art, Baudelaire is the creator 
of a new mood, in which Maeterlinck and Verlaine are 
among his disciples, where Swinburne and Wilde have 
followed him ; in painting and in music, his criticism was 
seeking in 1850 all that the later development of these 
arts has brought forth. The reflection of that brilliant 
mind glows in these intimate pages. 

In the almost absolute isolation in which he confined 
himself more and more, Baudelaire, who had so loved to 
expand in conversation, felt the need of a confidant that 
would not importune him with useless counsels, nor with 
expressions of sympathy he would have repulsed, if only 
through dandyism. Paper alone could be that confidant. 

The poet is wholly within these journals, with his reli- 
gious, political, moral and literary theories, above all, 
with the explicit evidence of his weaknesses and his 
griefs. What skilled theologian has made a more haughty 
confession than this: "There are none great among men 
save the poet, the priest and the soldier; the man who 
sings, the man who blesses, the man who sacrifices others 
and himself. The rest is made for the whip"? What 

209 



210 INTIMATE PAPERS 

political economist has made a more absolute declaration 
of principles than this: "There is no reasonable, stable 
government save the aristocratic. Monarchy and repub- 
lic, based on democracy, are equally weak and absurd"? 

His ideal of the greatness of the individual is derived 
logically from his conception of an aristocratic society 
under the triumvirate of the poet, the priest and the 
soldier, "Before all, to be a great man and a saint for 
one's self;" that, for Baudelaire, is the one ambition 
worthy of a superior nature. He has indicated the prin- 
cipal traits of the ideal "dandy" that he has sought im- 
ceasingly. The dandy is not only the most elegant of 
men, of the most original and discriminating tastes, which 
he exercises in his habits, in the choice of his books or his 
mistress; he is armed with a will superior to all obstacles, 
opposing caprice with invincible energy, and correcting 
in himself the inevitable faults of nature with all the 
resources of art. 

The two manuscripts in which these ideals are scat- 
tered differ so slightly that it might seem impossible to 
decide which should be read first. A closer examination, 
however, indicates that Rockets is of the period about 
ten years before the author's death, while My Heart 
Laid Bare belongs entirely to the days when he felt the 
first attacks of the illness that was to bear him off. No 
effort has been made to group the paragraphs according 
to topic; they are printed as they appear in the manu- 
script (the page divisions ot which are indicated by 
the successive numbers) . The documents furnish an in- 
teresting supplement to the more formal works of the 
poet, and a valuable contribution to literature. 



INTIMATE PAPERS 2H 



ROCKETS 



Even if God did not exist, religion would still be holy 
and divine, 

God is the only being who, to govern, need not even 
exist. 

That which is created by the mind lives more truly 
than matter. 

Love is the desire of prostitution. There is not even 
one noble pleasure which cannot be reduced to prosti- 
tution. 

At a play, at a ball, each one finds pleasure in all. 
What is art? Prostitution. 

The pleasure of being in a crowd is a mysterious ex- 
pression of joy in the multiplication of number. 

All is number. Number is in all. Number is in the 
individual. Intoxication is a number. 

The -desire of productive concentration ought to re- 
place, in a mature being, the desire of deperdition. 

Love may spring from a generous emotion: desire of 
prostitution; but it is soon corrupted by the desire of 
possession. 

Love would like to come out of itself, to merge itself 
in its victim, as the victor in the vanquished, while still 
preserving the privileges of the conqueror. 

The delights of whoso keeps a mistress partake at once 
of the angel and of the proprietor. Charity and ferocity. 
They are even independent of sex, of beauty, of the ani- 
mal kind. 

Immense depth of thought in popular phrases, hol- 
lowed out by generations of ants. 



212 INTIMATE PAPERS 

n 

Of the femininity of the Church, as the reason for its 
omnipotence. 

Of the color violet (restrained, mysterious, veiled love, 
color of canoness). 

The priest is immense, because he makes one believe in 
a host of astounding matters. That the Church wants 
to do all and to be all, is a law of the human mind. 
Mankind worships authority. Priests are the servants 
and sectaries of the imagination. The throne and the 
altar, revolutionary maxim. Religious intoxication of 
great cities. Pantheism. I, that is all; all, that is I. 
Vortex. 

m 

I think I have already written in my notes that love 
is very like torture or a surgical operation. But that 
idea can be developed in the bitterest way. Even though 
two lovers are deeply smitten and filled with reciprocal 
desire, one of the two will always be more calm, or less 
enraptured than the other. He or she is the surgeon, or 
the hangman; the other is the patient, the victim. Do 
you hear those sighs, preludes of a tragedy of shame, 
those groanings, those cries, those throat-rattlings? Who 
has not breathed them, who has not irresistibly sum- 
moned them forth? And what worse do you find in the 
torments applied by painstaking torturers? Those far- 
away eyes of the somnambulist, those limbs the muscles 
of which twitch and grow taut as under the action of a 
galvanic battery; drunkenness, delirium, opium, in their 
most infuriate consequences, surely yield no such fright- 
ful, no such curious examples. And the human counte- 
nance," which Ovid thought fashioned to reflect the stars, 
behold! it speaks only of insane ferocity, or is spread in 



INTIMATE PAPERS 213 

a species of death. For, certainly, I believe it would be 
sacrilege to apply the word "ecstasy" to that sort of de- 
composition. 

Frightful play, in which one of the players must 
lose control of himself! 

Once, in my presence, it was asked in what lay the 
greatest pleasure of love. Some one answered naturally: 
in receiving, and another: in giving one's self. The 
former said: pleasure of pride; and the latter: delight of 
humility! All these blackguards spoke like the Imitation 
of Christ. — Finally, an impudent Utopian came forward 
to affirm that the greatest pleasure of love is to create 
citizens for the fatherland. 

As for me, I said: The one and the supreme bliss of 
love rests in the certainty of doing evil. Both man a;nd 
woman know, from birth, that in evil lies all bliss. 



When a man takes to his bed, almost all his friends 
have a secret desire to see him die; some, to establish the 
fact that his health is inferior to theirs; others, in the 
disinterested hope of studying an agony. 

The arabesque is the most spiritual of designs. 

VI 

The man of letters rouses the capitals and conveys a 
taste for intellectual gymnastics. 

We love women in proportion as they are strangers to 
us. To love intelligent women is a pleasure of the peder- 
ast. Thus bestiality excludes pederasty. 

The spirit of buffoonery need not exclude charity; but 
that's rare. 

Enthusiasm applied to other things than abstractions 
is a sign of weakness and disease. 

The thin is more naked, more indecent, than the fat. 



214 INTIMATE PAPERS 

vn 

Tragic sky. Term of an abstract order applied to a 
material thing. 

Man drinks light with the atmosphere. Thus they are 
right who say that the night air is not healthful for labor. 

Man is bom a fireworshipper. 

Fireworks, conflagrations, incendiaries. 

If one imagine a born fireworshipper bom a Parsee, 
one could create a story. 

vni 

Misunderstanding of a countenance is the result of 
the eclipse of the real image by the hallucination bom 
of it. 

Know then the joys of a bitter life, and pray, pray 
ceaselessly. Prayer is a store-house of energy. (Altar 
of the will. Moral dynamics. The sorcery of the sacra- 
ments. Hygiene of the soul.) 

Music deepens the sky. 

Jean Jacques said that he could not enter a restaurant 
without a certain emotion. For a timid nature, a ticket 
office somewhat resembles the tribunal of hell. 

Life has but one true attraction: the attraction of 
play. But if we care not whether we win or lose? 

DC 

Nations have great men only in spite of themselves — 
like families. They make every effort not to have them. 
Therefore, the great man must, in order to exist, possess 
an offensive force greater than the power of resistance 
developed by millions of individuals. 

Apropos of sleep, that sinister adventure of all our 
nights, we might say that men go to bed daily with an 
audacity that would be incomprehensible if we did not 
know that it is the result of ignorance of the danger. 



INTIMATE PAPERS . 217 



There are tortoise-shell, hides against which scorn is 
no longer a vengeance. 

Many friends, many gloves.* Those who have ad- 
mired me were despised, I might even say were despic- 
able, if I sought to flatter honest men. 

Girardin talk Latin! Pecudesque locutae. 

He belongs to an infidel Society to send Robert Hou- 
din to the Arabs to convert them from the miracles. 

XI 

These great, beautiful vessels, imperceptibly swaying 
(rocking) on the tranquil waters, these sturdy ships, with 
their idle, homesick air, do they not ask us, in a silent 
tongue: When do we sail for happiness? 

Not to forget the marvellous in drama, sorcery, ro- 
mance. 

The background, the atmosphere in which a whole tale 
should be steeped. (See the Fall of the House of Usher, 
and refer this to the profound sensations of hashish and 
of opium.) 

XII 

Are there mathematical insanities, and idiots who 
think that two and two make three? In other words, can 
hallucination, if the words do not cry out (at being 
coupled), invade the affairs of pure reason? If, when a 
man is sunk in habits of sloth, of revery, of idleness, to 
the point of constantly deferring the important thing to 
the morrow, another man were to wake him in the morn- 
ing with biting lash, and were to whip him pitilessly 
until, unable to work for pleasure, he worked for fear, 

* 'for fear of the itch' is added elsewhere. 



2i6 INTIMATE PAPERS 

that man, that flogger, would he not be truly the friend, 
the benefactor? Besides, one might declare that pleas- 
ure would follow, much more justly than is said "Love 
comes after marriage." 

Similarly, in politics, the true saint is he who lashes 
and destroys the people, for the people's good. 

That which is not slightly deformed seems to lack feel- 
ing; whence it follows that irregularity, that is, the un- 
foreseen, surprise, astonishment, are an essential part 
and characteristic of beauty. 

xin 

Theodore de Banville is not exactly materialistic; he 
is luminous. His poetry represents happy hours. 

For each letter from a creditor, write fifty lines on 
an abstract subject, and you are saved. 

XV 

Translation and paraphrase of the Passion. To refer 
everything to that. 

Spiritual and physical joys born of the storm, thunder 
and lightning, tocsin of loving, shadowy memories, of 
years gone by. 

XVI 

I have found the definition of Beauty, of my Beauty. 
It is something ardent and sad, something slightly vague, 
giving conjecture wing. I will, if you please, apply my 
idea to a palpable object, for instance, to the most in- 
teresting object in society, to a woman's countenance. A 
seductive and beautiful head, a woman's head, I mean, 
is a head that brings dreams at once — confusedly — of 
voluptuousness and of sadness; which bears a suggestion 
of melancholy, of weariness, even of satiety, — or per- 



INTIMATE PAPERS 217 

haps an opposite emotion, an ardor, a wish to live, 
mingled with pent up bitterness, as springs frohi priva- 
tion or from despair. Mystery, regret, are also charac- 
teristics of beauty. 

A handsome male head need not convey, save per- 
haps in the eyes of a woman, that suggestion of voluptu- 
ousness, which, in a female countenance, is generally tan- 
talizing in proportion as the face is melancholy. But 
that head also will bear something ardent and sad, spirit- 
ual needs, ambitions vaguely receding, the thought of a 
rumbling, unused power, sometimes the thought of a 
vengeful lack of feeling (for the ideal tj^je of the dandy 
must not be neglected here) , sometimes also — and that is 
one of the most interesting characteristics of beauty — 
mystery, and finally (let me have the courage to con- 
fess to what degree I feel myself modern in esthetics) 
misfortune. I do not claim that Joy cannot be associat- 
ed with Beauty, but I do say that Joy is one of its most 
vulgar ornaments, while Melancholy is, as it were, its 
illustrious companion, to such a degree that I can scarcely 
conceive (is my brain an enchanted mirror?) a type of 
beauty in which is no Misfortune. Following — others 
might say: obsessed by — these ideas, you can see that it 
would be difficult for me not to conclude that the most 
perfect type of manly Beauty is Satan, — as pictured by 
Milton. 

xvn 

Auto-idolatry. Poetic harmony of character. Eu- 
rhythmy of character and faculties. Of conserving all 
the faculties. Of augmenting all the faculties. A cult 
(Magianism, evocatory sorcery). 

The sacrifice and the vow are the highest formulae and 
symbols of exchange. 



2i8 INTIMATE PAPERS 

Two fundamental literary qualities: the supernatural, 
and irony. Individual glance, aspect in which things 
maintain themselves before the writer, then a Satanic 
turn of mind. The supernatural includes the general 
color and the accent, i. e., intensity, sonority, limpidity, 
vibration, depth and resonance in space and in time. 

There are moments in life when time and space are 
deeper, and the intensity of life immeasurably increased. 

Of magic applied to the rousing of the great dead, to 
the reestablishment and the perfecting of health. 

Inspiration always comes, when a man wishes, but it 
does not always go, when he wishes. 

Of writing and of speech, considered as magic opera- 
tions, evocatory sorcery. 

Of Airs in Woman 

The charming airs, which constitute Beauty, are: The 
blase air, the bored air, the giddy air, the impudent air, 
the cold air, the disdainful air, the commanding air, the 
willing air, the mischievous air, the sickly air, the feline 
air, a mingling of childishness, nonchalance and malice. 

xvm 

In certain almost supernatural moods of the soul the 
depth of life reveals itself to the full, in the scene, ordi- 
nary as it may be, beneath one's eyes. It becomes the 
symbol. 

As I was crossing the boulevard, and as I hurried to 
escape the wagons, my aureole slipped off and fell into 
the mire of the macadam. Fortunately, I had time to 
pick it up; but a moment after the unlucky idea en- 
tered my mind that it was an ill omen ; after that the idea 
clung to me, and gave me no rest the entire day. 

Of the worship of one's self in love, from the point of 



INTIMATE PAPERS 219 

view of health, of hygiene, of the toilet, of eloquence 
and of spiritual nobility. 

XIX 

There is a magic operation in prayer. Prayer is one 
of the great forces of intellectual dynamics. It is like an 
electric current. 

The rosary is a medium, a vehicle; it is prayer brought 
within reach of all. 

Labor, progressive and accumulative force, bearing in- 
terest like capital, in faculties as in results. 

Play, intermittent energy, even though guided by 
science, will be conquered, fruitful as it may be, by labor, 
slight as it may be, but sustained. 

If a poet asked the state for the right to have a few 
bourgeois in his stable, there would be considerable sur- 
prise; while, if a bourgeois asked for roast poet, it would 
seem quite natural. 

"Kitten, puss, pussy, my cat, my wolf, my little mon- 
key, big monkey, big serpent, my little melancholy mon- 
key." Such freaks of too often repeated terms, too fre- 
quent bestial appellations, reveal a satanic side in love. 
Have not the devils the forms of beasts? The Camel of 
Cazotte, camel, devil, and woman. 

XX 

A man went to a shooting gallery, accompanied by his 
wife. He selected a puppet, and said to his wife: "I 
imagine that's you." He closed his eyes and beheaded 
the puppet. Then he said, kissing his companion's 
hand: "Dear angel, how I thank you for my skill." 

When I have inspired universal disgust and horror, I 
shall have won solitude. 

This book is not made for my wives, my daughters 
or my sisters. I have few of such things. 

God is a scandal, a scandal that rebounds. 



220 INTIMATE PAPERS 



XXI 



Do not scorn any one's sensibility. One's sensibility, 
that is one's genius. 

By an ardent concubinage, one can imagine the joys 
of a young household. 

The precocious taste for women. I used to confuse 
the odor of fur with the odor of woman. I remember. 
. . . Finally, I loved my mother for her elegance. Thus 
I was a precocious dandy. 

The Protestant countries lack two elements essential 
to the happiness of a well-bred man: gallantry and de- 
votion. 

The mingling of the grotesque and the tragic is pleas- 
ing to the mind, as discords to blase ears. 

What is vintoxicating in bad taste, is the aristocratic 
pleasure of displeasing. 

Germany expresses meditation by line, as England 
by perspective. 

There is, in the birth of every sublime thought, a ner- 
vous shock that is felt in the cerebellum. 

Spain puts into its religion the ferocity natural to 
love. 

STYLE. — ^The eternal note, the eternal and cosmo- 
politan style. Chateaubriand, Alph. Rabbe, Edgar Poe. 

Why democrats do not love cats is easy to determine. 
The cat is beautiful; it awakens ideas of luxury, of 
cleanliness, of voluptuousness, etc. 

xxn 

A little labor, repeated three hundred and sixty-five 
times, yields three hundred and sixty-five times a little 
money, that is, an enormous sum. At the same time 
fame is won. 



INTIMATE PAPERS 221 

To create a pounced drawing is genius. I ought to 
create a pounced drawing. 

My mother is fantastic; one must fear her and please 
her. 

xxm 

To give one's self over to Satan, what does that mean? 

What more absurd than progress since man, as is* 
proven by everyday fact, is always like and equal to 
man, that is to say, always in the savage state! What 
are the perils of the forest and the prairie beside the daily 
shocks and conflicts of civilization? Whether man en- 
snare his dupe on the boulevard, or pierce his prey in 
unknown forests, is he not eternal man, i. e., the most 
perfect beast of pray? 

They say I am thirty years of age ; but if I have lived 
three minutes in one . . ., am I not ninety? 

. . . Work, is it not the salt that preserves embalmed 
souls? 

XXIV 

I think that the infinite and mysterious charm that 
rests in the contemplation of a ship, especially of a ves- 
sel in n^otion, springs, in the first place, from regularity 
and symmetry (which are of the primordial needs of the 
human mind, as much as complexity and harmony) — 
and, secondly, from the successive multiplication and 
generation of all the curves and imaginary figures cut 
in space by the real elements of the object. 

The poetic idea which this movement in lines produces 
is the hypothesis of a vast, immense, complex but euryth- 
mic being, of a creature full of genius, suffering and 
sighing all human sighs and all human ambitions. 

Civilized races, that always speak so stupidly of sav- 
ages and barbarians, soon, as d'Aurevilly says, you will 
no longer be good enough to be idolaters. 



222 INTIMATE PAPERS 

Stoicism, religion that has but one sacrament: suicide! 

Conceive a canvas for a lyric or fairy buffoonery, for a 
pantomime, and transplant it into a serious novel. Bathe 
the whole in an abnormal, dreamy atmosphere, — in the 
atmosphere of the great days. Let there be something 
soothing, — something even serene, in passion. Regions 
of pure poetry. 

XXV 

What is not a priesthood nowadays? Youth itself is a 
priesthood — so youth tells us. 

Man, i. e., every one, is so naturally depraved that he 
suffers less from the universal abasement than from 
the establishment of a sensible hierarchy. 

XXVI 

The world is coming to an end. The only reason for 
which it can continue is that it exists. How weak that 
reason is, compared to all that announce the opposite, 
particularly to this: What has the world henceforth to 
do beneath the sky? For, supposing that it continue to 
exist materially, would it be an existence worthy of the 
name and of the Historical Dictionary? I do not say 
that the world will be reduced to the expedients and 
the comic disorder of the South American Republics, 
that perhaps we shall return to the savage state, and 
that we shall go, across the grassy ruins of our civiliza- 
tion, seeking our pasture, gun in hand. No; for these 
adventures presuppose a remnant of vital energy, echo 
of the earliest ages. New example and new victims of 
the inexorable moral laws, we shall perish by that throu^ 
which we thought to live. The mechanical will so have 
Americanized us, progress will so have atrophied all our 
spiritual side, that naught, in the sanguine, sacrilegious 



INTIMATE PAPERS 223 

or unnatural dreams of the Utopians can be compared 
to the actual outcome. I ask every thinking man to 
show me what of life remains. Of religion, I believe it 
useless to speak, and to seek the remnants, since to take 
the trouble to deny God is the only scandal in that field. 
Property virtually disappeared with the suppression of 
the right of the first-bom; but the time will come when 
humanity, like an avenging ogre, will snatch their last 
morsel from those who think they are the legitimate 
heirs of the revolutions. Still, that will not be the su- 
preme ill. 

The human imagination can conceive, without too 
much trouble, republics or other community states, 
worthy of some glory, if directed by consecrated men, by 
definite aristocrats. But it is not particularly in politi- 
cal institutions that there will be manifest the universal 
ruin, or the universal progress; for the name matters 
little. It will be in the debasement of the heart. Need I 
say that the little of the political remaining will writhe 
painfully in the embrace of the general bestiality, and 
that governments will be forced, in order to maintain 
themselves and to create a phantom of order, to revert to 
means which will make our actual humanity shudder, 
although so hardened? Then, the son will flee from his 
family not at eighteen years, but at twelve, emancipated 
by his gluttonous precocity; he will flee, not in search of 
heroic adventures, not to deliver a beautiful prisoner in a 
tower, not to immortalize a garret by sublime thoughts, 
but to establish a trade, to amass wealth, and to compete 
with his infamous papa, founder and stockholder of a 
journal which will spread the light and which will cause 
the century to be looked upon as an abettor of supersti- 
tion. Then, the wanderers, the outcasts, those who have 
had several lovers, and who were once called angels, in 
recognition of the heedlessness which shines, light of luck, 



224 INTIMATE PAPERS 

in their existence logical as evil — then these, I say, will 
be no more than a pitiless wisdom, a wisdom that will 
condemn all, lacking money, all, even the faults of the 
senses! Then, that which will resemble virtue, what do 
I say? — all that is not ardor toward Plutus will be con- 
sidered enormously ridiculous. Justice, if in that fortu- 
nate period justice can still exist, will interdict all citi- 
zens who cannot make a fortune. Your wife, O Bourgeois! 
your chaste partner, whose legitimacy is the poetry of 
your existence, thenceforth, introducing into legality an 
irreproachable infamy, zealous and loving guardian of 
your strongbox, will be no more than the ideal of the. 
kept woman. Your daughter, with infantile hopes of 
marriage, will dream in her cradle of selling herself for a 
million, and you yourself, O Bourgeois, still less poet 
than you are to-day, you will see nothing amiss; you will 
regret naught. For there are things in men that strength- 
en and prosper as others weaken and decline ; and, thanks 
to the progress of the times, you will have left of your 
entrails only the viscera! These times are perhaps quite 
near; who knows even that they have not come, and 
that the thickness of oui skins is not the only obstacle 
that prevents us from appreciating the environment in 
which we breathe? 

As for me, who sometimes feel in me the ridicule of a 
prophet, I know that I shall never find in myself the 
charity of a doctor. Lost in this vile world, jostled by 
the crowds, I am as a tired man who sees behind him, 
in the depths of the years, only disillusion and bitterness^ 
and ahead, only a storm that carries nothing new, neither 
knowledge nor grief. The evening that man stole from 
fate a few hours of pleasure, cradled in his digestion, 
forgetful — as far as possible — of the past, content with 
the present and resigned to the future, intoxicated with 
his sangfroid and his dandyism, proud of being less base 



INTIMATE PAPERS , 225 

than those who passed, he said, watching the smoke of 
his cigar: ''What does it matter to me where these con- 
sciences are going?" 

I think I have achieved what mechanics call an extra. 
However, I shall retain these pages, — because I want to 
date my sadness. 



MY HEART LAID BARE 



Of the vaporization and the centralization of the ego. 
All lies in that. 

Of a certain sensual joy in the society of extrava- 
gants. 

(I plan to begin My Heart Laid Bare at any point, in 
any way, and to continue it from day to day, following 
the inspiration of the occasion and the moment, provided 
that the inspiration be vivid.) 

n 

The first comer, if he can entertain, has the right to 
speak of himself. 

m 

I understand that some people desert a cause to dis- 
cover what they can experience in serving another. 

It might be pleasant to bei alternately victim and exe- 
cutioner. 

IV 

• 

Woman is the opposite of the dandy, Thus she must 
inspire horror. Woman is hungry, and she wants to eat, 
thirsty, and she wants to drink. She is proud, and she 
wants to be . . . 



226 INTIMATE PAPERS 

True merit! 

Woman is natural, that is to say, abominable. 

Also, she is always vulgar, that is, the opposite of the 
dandy. 

In regard to the Legion of Honor. He who seeks the 
cross seems to say: "If I am not decorated for having 
done my duty, I shall not go ahead," 

If a man has merit, what is the good in decorating 
him? If he has not, then he can be decorated, since 
that will give him a lustre. 

To consent to be decorated, is to recognize that the 
state has the right to judge you, to adorn you, et cetera. 

Furthermore, if not pride. Christian humility should 
defend the cross. 

Calculation in favor of God. Nothing exists without 
an end. Hence my existence has- an end. What end? I 
do not know. Hence it is not I that have marked it. 
Hence it is some one wiser than I. Hence I must pray to 
some one to enlighten me. That is the wisest part. 

The dandy ought to aspire uninterruptedly to be sub- 
lime. He should live and sleep before a mirror. 



Analysis of counter-religions; example: sacred prosti- 
tution. 

What is sacred prostitution? Nervous excitation. Pagan 
mysticism. Mysticism, link between paganism and Chris- 
tianity, Paganism and Christianity are reciprocal proofs. 

Revolution and the worship of Reason prove the con- 
cept of Sacrifice. 

Superstition is the reservoir of all truths. 

VI 

There is in all change something. at once agreeable and 
infamous, something that smacks of infidelity and of 



INTIMATE PAPERS 227 

moving day. That is enough to explain the French 
Revolution. 

vn 

My intoxication in 1848. Of what sort was that in- 
toxication? Desire of vengeance. Natural pleasure in 
demolishing. Literary drunkenness; memories of read- 
ing. 

The isth of May. Ever the desire of destruction- 
Legitimate desire, if all that is natural is legitimate. 

The horrors of June. Madness of the people and mad- 
ness of the bourgeoisie. Natural love of crime. 

My fury at the coup d'etat. How many gunshots sus- 
tained! Another Buonaparte! What a disgrace! 

Still, all is quieted. Has not the President the ri^t 
to invoke? 

What Emperor Napoleon III is? What he is worth? 

To find the explanation of his nature, and of his provi- 
dentiality. 

vni 

To be a useful man has always seemed to me a hideous 
thing. 

1848 was amusing only because every one was build- 
ing Utopias like castles in Spain. 

1848 was charming only by the very excess of the 
ridiculous. 

Robespierre is estimable only because he has made 
some fine phrases. 

IX 

The Revolution, by sacrifice, confirmed superstition. 

X 

Politiqice. I have no convictions, as the men of my 
age understand the term, because I have no ambition. 



228 INTIMATE PAPERS 

There is no basis in me for conviction. 

There is a certain cowardice, or rather a certain soft- 
ness, in honest men. 

The brigands alone are convinced — of what? That 
they must succeed. Therefore, they succeed. 

Why should I succeed, when I haven't even the de- 
sire to try? 

Glorious empires can be founded on crime, and noble 
religions on imposture. 

However, I have some convictions, in a higher sense, 
that cannot be understood by the men of my day. 

Feeling of solitiide, from my childhood. Despite my 
family, and in the midst of my comrades above all, — feel- 
ing of an eternally solitary destiny. 

Withal, an intense desire for life and for pleasure. 

Almost all our life is spent in idle curiosity. In re- 
venge, there are things which ought to rouse human curi- 
osity to the highest degree, and which, to judge by their 
commonplace activity, inspire it in no one! 

Where are our dead friends? WTiy are we here? Do 
we come from somewhere? What is liberty? Can it 
harmonize with providential law? Is the number of souls 
finite or infinite? And the number of habitable worlds? 
etc., etc. 

XI 

Nations have great men only in spite of themselves. 
Hence the great man is the conqueror of all his nation. 

The modern ridiculous religions: Moliere, Beranger, 
Garibaldi. 

xn 

Belief in progress is a doctrine of the slothful, a doc- 
trine of the Belgians. It is the individual who relies on 
his neighbors to tend to his affairs. There can be no 
progress (true, that is, moral) save in the individual 



INTIMATE PAPERS 229 

and by the individual himself. But the world is com- 
posed of folks who can think only in common, in bands. 
Thus the Belgian societies. There are also folks who can 
amuse themselves only in droves. The true hero finds 
his pleasure alone. 

Eternal superiority of the dandy. What is the dandy? 

XIII 

My opinions on the theatre. What I have alvfays 
found most beautiful in the theatre, in my childhood, and 
still to-day, is lustre, — a beautiful object, luminous, crys- 
talline, complex, circular, symmetrical. 

However, I do not absolutely deny the value of dra- 
matic literature. Only, I should like the actors to be 
mounted on high pattens, to wear masks more expressive 
than the human face, and to speak through megaphones; 
finally, I should like the female parts to be played bx 
men. ' 

After all, lustre has always seemed to me the principal 
actor, seen through the large or the small end of the 
glass. 

XIV 

One must work, if not through desire, at least in de- 
pair, since, as is well established, to work is less boring 
than to seek amusement. 



XV 

There are in every man, at every moment, two simul- 
taneous postulations, one toward God, the other toward 
Satan. 

The invocation of God, or spirituality, is a desire to 
rise; that of Satan, or bestiality, is a joy in descent. To 
the latter should be attributed love for women. 



230 INTIMATE PAPERS 

The joys which spring from these two loves conform to 
their two natures. 

XVI 

Intoxication of humanity; great picture to be made, in 
the sense of charity, in the sense of libertinage, in the 
Kterary or dramaturgic sense. 

xvn 

Torture, as the art of discovering the truth, is barbaric 
nonsense; it is the application of a material means to a 
spiritual end. 



Capital punishment is the result of a mystic idea, to- 
tally misunderstood to-day. The death penalty has not 
as its object to preserve society, materially at least. Its 
object is the preservation (spiritually) of society and the 
g:uilty one. In order that the sacrifice be perfect, there 
must be assent and joy on the part of the victim. To 
give chloroform to one condemned to death would be an 
impiety, for it would be to wipe out the consciousness 
of his grandeur as victim and to destroy his chance of 
gaining paradise. 

As to torture, it is bom of the infamous side of the 
heart of man, athirst for voluptuousness. Cruelty and 
voluptuousness, identical sensations, like extreme heat 
and extreme cold. 

xvni . 

A dandy does nothing. Can you imagine a dandy 
talking to the people, save to scoff at them? 

There is no reasonable, stable government save the 
aristocratic. 



INTIMATE PAPERS 231 

Monarchy and republic, based on democracy, are 
equally weak and absurd. 

Immense nausea of placards. 

There exist but three respectable beings: the priest, 
the warrior, the poet. To know, to kill, and to create. 

Other men are serfs or slaves, created for the stable, 
that is, to exercise what are called professions. 



XIX 

Observe that those who advocate the abolition of capi- 
tal punishment are more or less interested in its abolish- 
ment. Often, they are executioners. The matter may 
be summarized thus: "I wish to be able to cut off your 
head, but you shall not touch mine." 

Those who abolish souls (materialists) necessarily 
abolish hell; they are, beyond all doubt, interested. 

At the least, they are men that are afraid to live again, 
slothful ones. 

XX 

Mme. de Metternich, although a princess, has forgot- 
ten to answer me, in regard to what I said of her and of 
Wagner. Manners of the Nineteenth Century. 



xxn 

The woman Sand is the Prudhomme of immorality. 
She has always been a moralist. Only formerly she prac- 
ticed amorality. Also she has never been an artist. She 
has the famous fluent style, dear to the bourgeois. 

She is stupid, she is heavy, she is a chatterbox. She 
has, in moral matters, the same depth of judgment and 
the same delicacy of feeling as innkeepers and kept worn- 



232 INTIMATE PAPERS 

en. What she has said of her mother; what she has said 
of poetry. Her love for the workingman. 

George Sand is one of those old ingenues who do not 
wish to quit the boards. 

See the preface to Mile. La Quintinie, where she claims 
that true Christians do not believe in hell. Sand is for 
the God of good folks, the god of innkeepers and of do- 
mestic sharpers. 

She has good reason to wish to wif)e out hell. 

xxni 

It must not be thought that the devil tempts only men 
of genius. He doubtless scorns imbeciles, but he does 
not disdain their assistance. Quite the contrary, he 
founds great hopes on them. 

Take George Sand. She is especially, and above all 
things, a great blockhead; but she is possessed. It is the 
devil who has persuaded her to trust in her good heart 
and her good sense, so that she might persuade all other 
great blockheads to trust in their good heart and their 
good sense. 

I cannot think of that stupid creature without a shud- 
der of horror. If I were to meet her, I could not keep 
myself from hurling a basin of holy water at her. 

xxrv 

I am bored in France, especially as every one resembles 
Voltaire. 

Emerson forgot Voltaire in his "Representative Men." 
He could have made a fine chapter entitled Voltaire or 
The Antipoet, the king of boobies, the prince of the shal- 
low, the anti-artist, the preacher of innkeepers, the father 
who "lived in a shoe" of the editors of the century. 



INTIMATE PAPERS 233 

XXV 

In the "Ears of the Earl of Chesterfield," Voltaire jokes 
at the expense of that immortal soul which resided, for 
nine months, in the midst of excrement and urine. Vol- 
taire, like all the slothful, hates mystery, 

(At least, he might have divined in that environment 
the malice or satire of Providence against love, and, in 
the process of generation, a sign of original sin. In fact, 
we can make love only with excretory organs.) 

Unable to suppress love, the Church wished at least 
to disinfect it, and created marriage. 

XXVI 

Portrait of the literary riff-raff. Doctor Tavemus 
Crapulosus Pedantissimus. His portrait in the manner of 
Praxiteles. His pipe, his opinions, his Hegelianism, his 
filth, his ideas of art, his spleen, his jealousy. A fine 
picture of modem youth. 

xxvn 

Theology. What is the fall? If it is unity become 
duality, it is God who has fallen. In other words, is not 
creation the fall of God? 

Dandyism. What is the superior man? It is not the 
specialist. It is the man of leisure and broad educa- 
tion. To be rich and to love labor. 

xxviii 

Why does the man of parts prefer maidens to women 
of the world, though they are equally stupid? Find this 
out. 



234 INTIMATE PAPERS 



xxrx 

There are women who are like the ribbon of the Legion 
of Honor. They are wanted no more, because they have 
been sullied by certain men. Just as I would not put on 
the breeches of a mangy fellow. 

What is annoying in love, is that it is a crime in which 
one cannot do without an accomplice. 

XXX 

Study of the great disease of horror of the home. Rea- 
sons for the disease. 

Indignation at the universal fatuity of all classes, of 
all beings, of both sexes, of every age, 

Man loves man so much that when he flees the city, 
it is still to seek the crowd, that is, to rebuild the city in 
the country. 

XXXI 

Of love, of the predilection of the French for military 
metaphors. Here every metaphor wears a moustache. 

Militant literature. — To man the breach, — To bear the 
standard aloft, — To maintain the standard high and firm. 
— To hurl oneself into the thick of the fight, — One of 
the veterans. All these fine phrases apply generally to 
the college scouts and to the do-nothings of the coffee- 
house. 

XXXII 

To add to the military metaphors: Soldier of the ju- 
dicial press (Bertin). The poets of strife. The littera- 
teurs of the advance guard. This habitude of military 
metaphors denotes minds not military, but made for dis- 
cipline, that is, for conformity, minds bom domesticated, 
Belgian minds, which can think only in society. 



INTIMATE PAPERS 235 



xxxm 

Desire of pleasure binds us to the present. Care for 
our health suspends us on the future. 

He who attaches himself to pleasure, that is, to the 
present, is to me as one who, rolling down an incline, 
and trying to cling to the shrubs, uproots them and 
bears them away in his fall. 

Before all to be a great man and a saint for one's 
self. 

XXXV 

In the end, before all history and before the French 
people, the great glory of Napoleon III will have been 
to prove that the first comer, by seizing the telegraph 
and the national press, can govern a great nation. 

Imbeciles are those who think that such things can 
be accomplished without the permission of the people, — 
and those who believe that glory can be founded only on 
virtue! 

xxxvi 

What is love? The need of coming out of one's self. 

Man is an animal of worship. To worship is to sacri- 
fice one's self and to prostitute one's self. 

Thus all love is prostitution. 

The most prostituted being is the being beyond com- 
pare, is. God, since he is the soul supreme for every in- 
dividual, since he is the common, inexhaustible reservoir 
of love. 

Prayer 

Do not chastise me in my mother, yor chastise my 
mother because of me. — I commend to you the souls of 
my father and Mariette. — Give me each day strength to 



236 INTIMATE PAPERS 

perform the present duty and thus to become a hero and 
a saint. 

xxxvn 

A chapter on the indestructible, eternal, universal and 
ingenious human ferocity. Of the love of blood, of the 
intoxication of blood, of the intoxication of crowds. Of 
the intoxication of the executed criminal (Damiens). 

XXXIX 

I have always been astonished that women are al- 
lowed to enter church. What conversation can they 
have with God? 

The eternal Venus (caprice, hysteria, whim) is one of 
the seductive forms of the devil. 



XL 

Woman cannot separate the soul from the body. She 
is simple, like the animals. — A satirist would say it is be- 
cause she has only a body. 

XLII ' 

Veuillot is so coarse and such an enemy of the arts 
that one would think all the democracy of the world 
was harbored in his breast. 

Development of the portrait. Supremacy of the pure 
idea in the Christian as in the Babouvian communist. 

Fanaticism of humility. Not even to aspire to under- 
stand religion. 

XLIV 

In love, as in almost all human affairs, the entente 
cordial is the result of misunderstanding. The misunder- 
standing is pleasure. The man cries: "Oh my angel!" 



INTIMATE PAPERS 237 

The woman coos: "Mammal Mammal" And the two 
imbeciles are persuaded that they are thinking in con- 
cert. — The insuperable gulf, whidh bars communication, 
remains unabridged. 

XLV 

Why is the spread of the sea so infinitely and so 
eternally agreeable? 

Because the sea conveys the thought both of immens- 
ity and of movement. Six or seven leagues are for man 
the radius of the infinite. ■ 'Tis a diminutive infinite. 
What matter, if it suffice to suggest the whole? Twelve 
or fourteen leagues of liquid in movement are enough to 
convey the highest ideal of beauty which is offered to 
man in his transitory habitation. 

XLVI 

There is naught interesting on earth save its religions. 

There is a universal religion made for the alchemists 
of thought, a religion which is disengaged from man, con- 
sidered as a heavenly reminder. 

XLVII 

Saint-Marc Girardin has spoken one word that will 
endure: "Let us be mediocre!" Set that beside this of 
Robespierre: "Those that do not believe in the immor- 
tality of their being, do themselves justice." The word 
of Saint-Marc Girardin implies a bitter hatred of the 
sublime. 

XLVin 

Theory of true civilization. It lies not in gas, nor in 
steam, nor in tilting tables. It lies in the diminution of 
the traces of original sin. 

Nomad peoples, shepherds, hunters, farmers, even can- 



238 INTIMATE PAPERS 

nibals, all can rise superior in energy, in personal dig- 
nity, to our races of the West. We perhaps shall be de- 
stroyed. 

XLIX 

It is through leisure, in part, that I have grown, — to 
my great detriment; for leisure, without wealth, increases 
debts; but to my great gain, in regard to sensibility, 
meditation, and the faculty of dandyism and of dilet- 
tantism. 



The young girl of editors. The young girl of editors in 
chief. The young girl, scarecrow, monstrous, assassin 
of art. 

The young girl, what she really is. A little stupid and 
a little slovenly; the greatest imbecility combined with 
the greatest depravity. 

There is in the young girl all the abjection of the cad 
and of the school-boy. 

LI 

Advice to non-communists: all is common, even God. 

Ln 

The Frenchman is a backyard animal so domestic that 
he dare not leap any fences. See his tastes in art and 
literature. 

He is an animal of the Latin race; filth does not dis- 
please him; in his home, and in literature, he is sca- 
tophagous. He dotes on excrement. The litterateurs of 
the coffee-house call that the gallic salt. 



INTIMATE PAPERS 239 



Lin 

Princes and generations. There is equal injustice in 
attributing to reigning princes the virtues and the vices 
of the people they actually govern. 

Those virtues and those vices should almost always, 
as statistics and logic will show, be attributed to the 
atmosphere of the preceding government. 

Louis XIV inherits the men of Louis XIII, glory. 
Napoleon I inherits the men of the Republic, glory. 
Louis-Philippe inherits the men of Charles X, glory. 
Napoleon III inherits the men of Louis-Philippe, dis- 
honor. 

It is always the preceding government that is respon- 
sible for the customs of the following, in so far as a 
government can be responsible for anything. 

The sudden suppressions that circumstances bring to 
a reign do not allow of absolute exactitude, in this law, 
in regard to time. One cannot, say precisely where an in- 
fluence ends, but an influence will endure in all the gen- 
eration that was subjected to it in youth. 

LIV 

Of the hatred of youth toward those who quote. The 
quoter is their enemy. 

"I would place spelling itself in the hands of the hang- 
man." . (Th. Gautier.) 



Immovable desire of prostitution in the heart of man, 
whence springs his horror of solitude. — He wishes to be 
two. The genius wishes to be one, hence alone. Glory 
is in remaining one, and in prostituting one's self in a 
particular way. 



240 INTIMATE PAPERS 

It is that horror of solitude, the need of forgetting his 
ego in the outer flesh, that man nobly calls the need of 
love. 

Two fine religions, immortally planted on the mature, 
eternal obsessions of the people: the ancient phallus, and 
"Vive Barbes!" or "A bas Philippe!" or "Vive la Re- 
publique!" 

LV 

To study, in all its moods, in the works of nature and 
in the works of man, the eternal and universal law of 
gradation, by degrees, little by little, with forces progres- 
sively increasing, like compound interest in finance. 

It is the same with artistic and literary ease; it is the 
same with the variable treasure of the will. 

LVI 

The rout of little litterateurs to be seen at funerals, dis- 
tributing handshakes and commending themselves to the 
memory of the letter writer. Of the funerals of famous 
men. 

Moliere. — My opinion of Tartuffe is that it is not a 
comedy, but a pamphlet. An atheist, if only he is well- 
bred, would think, in connection with the play, that seri- 
ous questions should never be betrayed to the riff-raff. 

Lvn 

To glorify the worship of images (my great, my one, 
my primitive passion). To glorify vagabondage and 
what may be called bohemianism. Worship of sensa- 
tion, multiplied and expressing itself in music. Refer this 
to Liszt. 

Of the need of beating women. 

One can chastise what one loves. Thus with children. 



INTIMATE PAPERS 241 

But that implies the misery of scorning what one loves. 
Of cuckoldom and of cuckolds. The misery of the 
cuckold. It springs from his pride, from a false concep- 
tion of honor and of happiness, and from a love foolishly 
turned from God to be attributed to creatures. It is ever 
the worshipping animal deluded with its idol. 

Lvm 

Music conveys the idea of space. All the arts, more or 
less; since they are number and number is a translation 
of space. 

Daily to wish to be the greatest of men I 

LXI 

Nations have great men only in spite of themselves. 

Apropos of the actor and of my childish dreams, a 
chapter on what constitutes, in the human soul, the 
calling of the actor, the glory of the actor, the art of the 
actor and his situation in the world. 

The theory of Legouve. Is Legouve a cold farceur, a 
Swift, who tried whether France would swallow a new 
absurdity? His choice. Good, in the sense that Samson 
is not an actor. 

Of the true greatness of pariahs. Perhaps even, virtue 
harms the talents of pariahs. 

LXII 

Commerce is, in its essence, satanic. Commerce, is the 
loan returned, it is the loan with an understanding: Re- 
turn more than I gave you. 

— The spirit of everything commercial is completely 
depraved. 

— Commerce is natural, htnce it is infamous. 



242 INTIMATE PAPERS 

— ^The least infamous of tradesmen is he who says: 
"Let us be virtuous that we may gain much more money 
than the fools who are vicious." For the tradesman, 
honesty itself is a speculation. Commerce is satanic, be- 
cause it is one of the forms of egoism, the lowest, and 
the most vile. 

Lxrn 

When Jesus Christ said: "Blessed are they that 
hunger, for they shall be filled!" Jesus Christ was gam- 
bling on probabilities. 

LXIV 

The world progresses only through misunderstanding. 
It is by universal misunderstanding that all the world 
agrees. For if, unfortunately, they understood one an- 
other, people could never agree. 

The man of wit, he who will never agree with any one, 
ought to strike up a liking for the conversation of idiots 
and the reading of bad books. He will draw from this 
bitter joys that will largely compensate for his fatigue. 

LXV 

Any officeholder whatsoever, a minister, a. manager of 
a theater or magazine, can sometimes be an estimable 
being; but he can never be admirable. He is a person 
lacking personality, a being without originality, born for 
the office, that is to say, for public domesticity. 

LXVI 

God and his profundity. One can be not lacking in 
wit and find in God the accomplice and friend who is al- 
ways wanting. God is the eternal confidant in that 
tragedy where every one is the hero. There are per- 



INTIMATE PAPERS 243 

haps usurers and assassins who say to God: "Lord, let 
my next operation succeed!" But the prayer of these 
rascally folk does not disturb the honor and the pleasure 
of mine. 

Lxvn 

All idea is, in itself, endowed with immortal life, like a 
person. All form, even created by man, is immortal. 
For form is independent of matter, and it is not mole- 
cules that constitute form. 



Lxvm 

It is impossible to glance through any newspaper at 
all, no matter of what day, what month, what year, 
without finding in every line the most frightful signs of 
human perversity, together with the most astonishing 
boasts of probity, of goodness, of charity, and the most 
shameless affirmations in regard to the progress of civil- 
ization. 

Every paper, from the first line to the last, is but a 
tissue of horrors. War, crime, theft, lewdness, crimes of 
princes, crimes of nations, crimes of individuals, a uni- 
versal intoxication of atrocity. 

And it is with this disgusting appetizer that civilized 
man accompanies his every morning meal. Everything in 
this world sweats crime: the magazine, the wall, the face 
of man. I cannot see how a pure hand can touch a 
paper without a convulsion of disgust. 

LXIX 

The strength of the amulet demonstrated by philos- 
ophy. Bored coins, talismans, every one's keepsakes. 
Treatise on moral dynamics. Of the power of the sacra- 



244 INTIMATE PAPERS 

ments. Of my childhood, tendency to mysticism. My 
conversations with God. 



LXX 

Of obsession. Of Possession, of Prayer and of Faith. 
Moral dynamics of Jesus. (Renan thinks it ridiculous 
to suppose that Jesus believed in the omnipotence, even 
materially, of Prayer and of Faith.) The sacraments 
are the means of this dynamics. 

Of the infamy of the printing-shop, great obstacle to 
the development of beauty. 

LXXI 

In order for the law of progress to exist, every one 
must wish to create it; that is, when every individual 
applies himself to progress, then, and only then, human- 
ity will be in progress. 

This hj^othesis serves to explain the identity of two 
contradictory ideas, free will and predestination. — ^Not 
only is there, in the case of progress, identity of free will 
and predestination, but that identity has always existed. 
That identity is history, the history of nations and of 
men. 

Lxxn 

Hygiene. Projects. — The more one wills, the better 
one wills. 

The more one works, the better one works, and the 
more one wants to work. The more one produces, the 
more fertile one grows. 

Morally as physically, I have always had the sensa- 
tion of the gulf, not only of the gulf of sleep, but the 
gulf of action, of revery, of memory, of desire, of regret, 
of remorse, of beauty, of number, etc. 



INTIMATE PAPERS 245 

I have cultivated my hysteria with joy and terror. 
Now, I always have vertigo, and to-day, January 23, 
1862, I felt a strange warning. I felt pass over me a 
gust from the wing of imbecility. 



Lxxin 

How many presentiments and signs already sent by 
God, that it is high time to act, to regard the present 
moment as the most important moment, and to make 
my perpetual joy of my usual torment, that is, of workl 

LXXIV 

Hygiene, Conduct, Morals. — Every moment, we are 
crushed by the idea and sensation of time. And there 
are only two means of escaping that nightmare, of forget- 
ting it: pleasure and work. Pleasure consumes us. Work 
fortifies us. Let us choose. 

The more we make use of one of these means, the more 
the other fills us with repugnance. 

One can forget time only by using it. 

Everything is accomplished bit by bit. 

De Maistre and Edgar Poe taught me to reason. 

There is no long work but that which one dares not 

begin. It becomes a nightmare. 

I 

LXXV 

Hygiene. — By putting off what one has to do, one 
runs the risk of never being able to do it. By postponing 
conversion, one risks being damned. 

To heal everything, misery, disease and melancholy, 
absolutely nothing is needed but the love of work. 



246 INTIMATE PAPERS 



LXXVI 

Precious Notes. — Do every day what prudence and 
duty dictate. If you work every day, life will be more 
endurable. Work six days without a let-up. To find 
fields, Know thyself. Always to be a poet, even in prose. 
Grand style (nothing is more beautiful than the com- 
monplace). First begin, then make use of logic and 
analysis. Any hypothesis whatsoever tends to its con- 
clusion. Find the daily frenzy. 

LXXVII 

Hygiene, Conduct, Morals. — Debts. Friends (my 
mother, friends, myself). Thus, looo francs should be 
divided into two parts of 500 francs each, and the sec- 
ond divided into three. 

Lxxvni 

— To do one's duty every day and trust in God for the 
morrow. 

The one way to make money is to work in a disinter- 
ested fashion. 

— Concentrated wisdom. Toilet, prayer, labor. 

Prayer: charity, wisdom and strength. 

Without charity, I am but a clashing cymbal. 

— My humiliations have been mercies of God. 

Is my egoistical phase at an end? 

The gift of responding to the moment's need, exacti- 
tude, in a word, should infallibly bring its recompense. 

LXXIX 

Hygiene, Conduct, Morals. — Jean 300, my mother 
200, myself 300, — 800 francs a month. To work from 



INTIMATE PAPERS 247 

six in the morning, on an empty stomach, till noon. To 
work blindly, aimlessly, like a madman. We shall see 
the result. 

I suppose I base my destiny on a few hours' uninter- 
rupted toil. 

All is reparable. There is still time. Who knows even 
if new pleasure . . . ? 

I have not yet known the pleasure of a project carried 
out. 

Power of the fixed idea, po\yer of hope. 

The habit of doing one's duty drives out fear. 

One must wish to dream and know how to dream. 
The summoning of inspiration. The Art of Magic. To 
set myself immediately to writing, I reason too much. 

Immediate work, even poor, is worth more than 
dreams. 

A procession of little wishes makes a mighty end. 

Every recoil of the will is a particle of lost substance. 
How prodigal, then, is hesitation! And judge of the 
greatness of the final effort needed to repair so many 
losses 1 

The man who prays in the evening, is a captain who 
posts his sentinels. He can sleep. 

Dreams of death and warnings. 

Up to now I have enjoyed my memories alone; they 
must be shared with another. Make a passion of the 
joys of the heart. 

Because I comprehend a glorious existence, I believe 
myself capable of realizing it, O Jean- Jacques! 

Work forcibly engenders good habits, sobriety and 
chastity, consequently health, wealth, successive and pro- 
gressive genius, and charity. Age quod agis. 

Fish, cold baths, showers, lichen, lozenges, occasion- 
ally; in addition, suppression of everything exciting. 



248 INTIMATE PAPERS 

Island Lichen 125 grams 

White sugar 2 50 " 

Steep the lichen, for twelve or fifteen hours, in a suffi- 
cient quantity of cold water, then drain the water. Boil 
the lichen in two liters of water, on a slow and continuous 
flame, until the two liters have dwindled to one, re- 
move the scum once; then add the 250 grams of sugar 
and allow it to thicken to the consistency of syrup. Al- 
low it to cool again. Take a large tablespoonful three 
times daily, morning, noon, and night. Do not be afraid 
to increase the dose, if the crises become too frequent. 

LXXX 

Hygiene, Conduct, Method. — I swear to myself hence- 
forth to take the following rules as eternal rules of my 
life: 

Every morning to pray to God, reservoir of all strength 
and all justice, to my father, to Mariette, and to Poe, 
as intercessors; to pray to them to grant me the neces- 
sary strength always to do my duty, and to grant to my 
mother a life long enough to enjoy my transformation; 
to work all day, or at least while my strength remains; 
to trust in God, that is, in Justice itself, for the success 
of my projects ; to make, every evening, a new prayer to 
God, asking life and strength for my mother and for my- 
self; to divide all I earn into four parts, — one for current 
expenses, one for my creditors, one for my friends and 
one for my mother; — to obey the precepts of strictest so- 
briety, of which the first is the suppression of everything 
exciting, whatever it may be. 



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